Alastair Reynolds – Elysium Fire

It was almost eleven years ago that I wrapped up my review of The Prefect by saying that I hoped we’d see more of its protagonist Tom Dreyfus. Well, that hope has now been fulfilled with a sequel.

So, we’re back in the Glitter Band, the huge belt of habitats orbiting the planet Yellowstone, home to something like one hundred million people living in a variety of societies united under a real-time democracy. Regulation is light, except in the matter of voting, which is strictly regulated by Panoply, the body appointed by the citizens to take all necessary actions, including seriously deadly force when necessary, to maintain the democratic system.

But not all is well. all over the Glitter Band, people are dying – seemingly random, blameless citizens are being killed by the brain implants everyone except  Panoply agents depend upon to interface with their society. And following the events in the previous book, there’s a growing separatist movement, which has led a small number of habitats to secede from the overall society.

As you might expect, there’s a lot of confusion, Deadly Peril and dramatic action as Tom and his colleagues are slowly drawn to the source of the trouble. This is Al Reynolds doing what he does best, with a definite feel of working to give the readers what they want.

Interestingly, The Prefect has been reissued with the new title Aurora Rising, which matches the title of the new book, and is perhaps a hint that there’s more to come. I’d be happy with that.

Weight and Stuff Report – 17 February 2018

Weight: 212.9 pounds (15 stone 2.9 pounds, 96.6 kg)
Steps: 7,004

Would you believe it, down again to another new low? Well, that’s how it looks. That’s just over a stone down since the start of the year, and a whole two stone lighter than this time last year. And this doesn’t seem to be a scale reading issue – formerly tight trousers are now loose, and I can get into ones I haven’t worn for a very long time.

Today’s outing was to Carlisle, where I had a bit of a wander and a visit to the Tullie House museum and art gallery, where I saw some interesting Roman bits amongst other things. I also used their viewing gallery to get this image of the castle:

Carlisle Castle

Carlisle Castle

Camera: X70
Aperture: ƒ/9
Shutter speed: 1/480s
Focal length: 18.5mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 17 February, 2018
Location: 54° 53.746′ 0″ N 2° 56.436′ 0″ W

 

Weight and Stuff Report – 16 February 2018

Weight: 213.8 pounds (15 stone 3.8 pounds, 97 kg)
Steps: 1,665

Back down today, to yet another new low for the year. It’s probably a temporary wossname, but it does mean that I’ve lost almost a stone this year…

Here’s another bit of Hexham Abbey:

Hexham Abbey

Hexham Abbey

Camera: X-T2
Aperture: ƒ/8
Shutter speed: 1/60s
Focal length: 24.2mm
ISO: 5000
Taken: 27 January, 2018
Location: 54° 58.2711′ 0″ N 2° 6.15′ 0″ W

 

Weight and Stuff Report – 12 February 2018

Weight: 214.6 pounds (15 stone 4.6 pounds, 97.3 kg)
Steps: 2,395

Although I seem to be past the worst of the lurgy, my weight doesn’t seem to have realised it, and it’s down again, to yet another new low, etc, etc.

Here’s an interesting-looking place in York

Rehab?

Rehab?

Camera: X-T2
Aperture: ƒ/10
Shutter speed: 1/60s
Focal length: 18.2mm
ISO: 640
Taken: 20 January, 2018
Location: 53° 57.3852′ 0″ N 1° 5.4151′ 0″ W

Joined-up thinking and quick service… from the government

Last Saturday, I decided it was time to get round to renewing my little-used and now-expired passport. It’s not so much that I’m planning to go anywhere soon, as not having official photo ID can be a bit awkward at times, especially these days when new employers generally insist on seeing some, so they can prove I’m not some alien interloper, or whatever it is they’re supposed to be looking for. And there’s the little matter that they’ll be putting the prices up soon!

So, I had a look and oooooooh, you can do renewals online now. The only tricky bit is the photo. Now you could go to one of those automatic booth things, feed it some money, do your best impression of a rabbit in headlights and hope that the result would be approved. Or you could ask someone to take a photo against a plain background, and again hope for the best. Or you could to the more advanced thing and go to a shop, where an actual human who does this sort of thing all the time, and knows what to do to get a suitable picture, will take it for you. And let them upload it to the government portal for you, where an automated system will do a basic check to make sure a face can be identified. So that’s what I did. This service is available in various places, notably branches of Max Spielmann, who can be found in many high streets and within larger branches of Tesco. In addition to the upload, you get the traditional four printed copies, the photo on a USB stick and a copy sent to your email address, so you’re covered nicely. The cost is £9.99, which is more than a photo booth, but comes with a guarantee – if the passport office rejects the image, they’ll take it again and will carry on until your photo is accepted.

So, armed with the code supplied by the shop, I filled in the remarkably simple form (name, address, old passport number, etc) and paid by credit card. The only thing you can’t do online is return your old passport – you need to post that back to the address supplied (which includes your unique reference number) before they’ll start processing your renewal. So, I popped back into Newcastle on Sunday and sent it off by Special Delivery (not essential, but I’m paranoid).

Now, the site suggested that the process would take around three weeks, which was fine…

Anyway, the old passport was delivered on Tuesday, and I got an acknowledgement by email and text message.

It was checked on Wednesday and approved. I was then expecting it to go into some long processing queue to reappear in a week or two. But no, I got an update on Thursday telling me it was all done and on its way.

On Friday morning, I got a message from the courier telling me delivery would be attempted “by tomorrow”. Now, depending on where you live, you might find they’ll put it through your letter box. If you’ve got a shared entrance, or a bank of letter boxes, they won’t do that, so if you’re not in, you’ll have to contact the courier to arrange delivery at a later time. As I have a front door with a letter box, that’s where they put it, and it was waiting for me when I got home.

So, less than a week to turn around a passport renewal, which is pretty good going.

Note that for first passports, where the photos need to be signed off by a suitably responsible person, and more identity checks are made, the process won’t be as quick and easy, but it’s good to see some things getting more user-friendly.

Weight and Stuff Report – 10 February 2018

Weight: 215 pounds (15 stone 5 pounds, 97.5 kg)
Steps: 6,350

That’s a big drop today, but it’s a lurgy-influneced anomaly, so don’t expect it to stay  that low..

I had an early night last night, self moderately well, did some serious coughing, then got the shopping done. I took myself into Newcastle for a look around and even managed a brief visit to the Metrocentre, before realising I was, in fact, knackered and came home and had a lie down for a couple of hours. Now planning to have a relaxed evening and another early night.

Here’s an interesting character from York

Bless you...

Bless you…

Camera: X-T2
Aperture: ƒ/5.6
Shutter speed: 1/220s
Focal length: 400mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 20 January, 2018
Location: 53° 57.5823′ 0″ N 1° 4.9054′ 0″ W