I always meant to pick up something by Eric Brown after he said some very nice things about my sci-fi thriller, Plastic Jesus, in his review for The Guardian. He’s something of a veteran author within sci-fi, having released a wealth of material, both short and long form, since the late 80s so there’s quite the list to choose from. But for some reason, his 2007 release, Helix, always stood out to me.
Helix follows a ragtag team of engineers caretaking a one-way mission seeking out a habitable new homeland for the last of the human race. The ship crashlands, awakening Joe Hendry and the other engineers from their 1000 year cryosleep. Hendry and his team, consisting of the young inuit, Sissy Kaluchek, African Friday Olembe and the mysterious Italian, Gina Carrelli, must explore this new alien landscape to see if it will make a suitable homeland.
In terms of reference, I’d pitch Helix as somewhere between Planet Of the Apes and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. It has the former’s old school sense of adventure teamed with the latter’s imagination and sense of awe. Brown’s writing is engaging and uncomplicated, drawing me in immediately to the colourful world of the Helix and its vibrant inhabitants. We’re talking soft sci-fi for the most part, but there are some wonderful ideas in terms of the architecture of the Helix world and how it came into being. And its history and politics make for some wonderful social commentary.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and burned through it within a few days. If you’re after an old-school space opera with a bit of steampunk thrown in for kicks, Helix is just the ticket.