Zsolt Kerekes reviews a book - Murder on the Alpha Centauri Express

what were you doing on New Year's Eve - December 31, 2023?

this is the design of the cover which attracted me to the book Hours before the fireworks began in the UK I had just finished reading a book by a new (to me) author Steve Downes - Murder on the Alpha Centauri Express.

Discoverability for living authors is a problem in today's algorith$m-driven search market. And the things I wanted to say after reading it were too long to waste in an Amazon book review. I think more readers should be aware of this book and its author. Maybe you know all about it already and are just curious. Whatever brought you here, thanks for visiting. Here's my review.

book: Murder on the Alpha Centauri Express

author: Steve Downes

review by Zsolt Kerekes - January 3, 2024

Agatha Christie is a writer in that pantheon of greats whose titles are best known today by the experience of movies and tv series based on their books rather than so much actual reading of their written pages, and so I confess that although I have never read any of her books it is no surprise that like almost anyone of a certain age likely to be in the market for a new book in the English language I recognised a playful allusion in the title of "Murder on the Alpha Centauri Express" which I approached accidentally via some twitter pages by the author and found myself drifting towards as my next read having been a lifelong reader of science fiction.

this is the design of the cover which attracted me to the book And while not, myself, being attracted so much by modern splashy cover designs I found this particular book, with its dark star studded background, and glowing centre, reminiscent of many classic books in that genre which I had enjoyed.

Signs of a great work. What next? Naturally, I downloaded a sample.

From the first page of the sample I felt like I was in a comfortable place. Where had I experienced this ambience before?

My thoughts went back to Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and some detective themed stories in Isaac Asimov's Robot books - The Caves of Steel. It was a good feeling. But there was something more too. As if H G Wells had managed to include a glimpse of Star Trek in his time machine but had written about what he saw in an artful way which his contemporary Victorian readers would be able follow.

Needless to say I bought the book, which, constrained as it is by the dictates of the publishing market, is far too cheap for the entertainment value you get.

For me this book delivered much more than the promise proferred by its captivating sample. And soon after launching into the pages which followed the sample I stopped comparing it to all those other classic titles. It has become, itself, a new point of reference for future others.

This was the first book written by Steve Downes that I read. It will not be the last. He deserves his own place in any collection of those authors of yore I have mentioned above. I wish I could write dialogue half as well as he does.

Which brings me to this...

If there is anyone who commissions drama programmes for BBC Radio 4 who might be reading this - I suggest you might serve your future / modern audience well by pondering an audio adaptation of this work by a living author, who still has more books in him by the looks of it, rather than endlessly upcycling those out of copyright classics with which the founder of your esteemed organization would already have been familiar.

Want to know more? click here to see the official website of Steve Downes
X / @goblinsearch - January 10, 2024

I wrote a shorter review for Amazon (silly me - typing from the kindle app on my little 8 year old iphone 6 - which meant I didn't retain a copy of the text).

Waiting. Waiting. One week later. It has now landed.

PS - a new localised meaning to "short"
Steve Downes - Murder on the Alpha Centauri Express

delivers much more than promised by the cover, title and sample

Can a book by an author you've never read before take you back to the comfortable feelings you had when reading classics like Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, Isaac Asimov's Caves of Steel? or watching (because who, nowadays reads the books of) Agatha Christie?

I was asking myself those questions while reading the sample of this book in the holidays of Dec 2023. Confidently written, going in a good direction. My answer - having finished on New Years Eve is a resounding yes.

I stopped making such comparisons reading beyond the sample because this story is its own thing and can justify its place on such virtual shelves as a proud companion having dialogue which is better written than any of those other story tellers achieved.

For fans of HG Wells's Time Machine too, there's a hue of that Victorianesque patina in the early encountered descriptions of place and things but... (no plot spoilers here) and a glimpse of tech which would not seem strange to fans of Star Trek. I enjoyed this book. Glad I tried it. Will definitely read more by the author.

see also:- Z-shaped word packets on X (some saved tweets from my 1st year on twitter)