Sunday, February 18, 2024

Review: The Anshar Gambit by Ian G McDowell


Genre: Near Future Techno-thriller


The Earth is about to be blown to bits (not really a spoiler, as this information is in the first sentence of the Prologue). There is an asteroid which has been captured by Space Corps Inc to be mined for rare minerals required for faster-than-light space flight, but is instead about to be cut into chunks for use as missiles.

Humanity is on the cusp of being able to ‘escape the surly bonds of Earth’ as the poet says. Anshar, as the asteroid has been named, was supposed to enable that but (mwah ha ha) a lunatic has taken over the project and several major cities are obliterated before anyone can do anything sensible.

The book cuts between various points of view and locations to convey to the reader how and why things have come to this pass. Also, who is trying to prevent the destruction set in motion, and how they are going about it.

The sense of panic thus induced in the reader is way past ‘page turning’. I couldn’t put this down.


McDowell is a software engineer and technologist. He has worked at top Silicon Valley tech companies and has a Masters degree in Information Management and Systems. He makes excellent use of this knowledge and skill in his fiction. He is a talented writer. As a reader one quickly acquires that confidence in the writing, essential for this kind of tale, that the whizz-bang ride he is taking one on is not going to blow a gasket mid-story.


This is an excellent, fast-paced, thriller. The author is well-versed in current and near-future tech, and laces the books with oodles of drones, HUDs, brain implants, and IT things we haven’t even imagined yet. McDowell, however, has imagined them. And he knows how to deploy them on the page. Hopefully not in the real world or we’re all doomed.

The strength of the story isn’t in its plotting, to be fair. It is a standard ‘end of the world as we know it’ scenario. But the characters are drawn vividly and larger than life, and the tension is kept at ‘twang’ pitch throughout. This would make a super action movie. There is never a dull moment. And just when you think the story is coming in for a soft landing – whee! It takes off again.

The book is not only a wild ride, it has plenty to say about where we’re actually heading, environmentally and technologically. It includes IT/AI and security corporations which seem all too familiar, and which have no ESG whatsoever in their structure. Inter alia it asks that all-important question ‘just because we can, should we?’

Thoroughly recommended, if you like hard, near future, SF.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK


Plenty of cussing

Format/Typo Issues:

A few continuity issues. You won’t have time to worry about them.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Judi Moore

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words

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