Like many book bloggers, I’m not much of a TV watcher. I spend most of my freetime reading and there are only a very few programmes I make the effort to set aside time for. But one series that totally absorbed me was Life on Mars, and its successor Ashes to Ashes. When I heard that Tom Graham, the brother of one of the show’s creators and a writer on some of the episodes, was writing a series of Life on Mars books, I couldn’t resist. Even so, I couldn't help feeling a twinge of embarrassment about reading a novel that’s based on a TV programme, and I very nearly didn’t blog about it, but that would have been a shame as I’ve never missed a book since I started this blog. Still, it may not be great literature, but Blood, Bullets and Blue Stratos was actually a lot of fun.
The story picks up more or less where the series left off, with Sam back in 1973 having jumped off the roof in 2006 (if you haven’t seen Life on Mars, none of this is going to make any sense to you!) The book sticks closely to the format of the TV series, with a crime for Gene, Sam and the gang to solve as well as various supernatural visions and dreams that give Sam clues to the bigger picture and hint at some of what we learned in Ashes to Ashes. The crime concerns a revolutionary group who start a campaign of bombings and terrorist actions in Manchester using equipment obtained from the IRA. Add a little kidnapping, a touch of peril with an electric drill, some fast cars and big guns and you’ve got a really fun way to spend an evening.
Apart from a very few bits of dialogue that didn’t quite ring true, the characters haven’t changed a bit, and I had no trouble visualising them in action. Gene Hunt’s famous neanderthal lines are all there and there was plenty of humour too, much of it at the expense of the other staple characters, Chris and Ray. I was really impressed by the way the story came to life, and it felt just like an extended episode of the series playing out in my mind instead of on the screen. Despite the humour, the book was surprisingly dark in places, and Sam’s old nemesis – the test card girl – is back in a new and very creepy way.
Annie Cartwright is back too, of course, but her and Sam's relationship still seems to be progressing at a snail's pace. I suppose the author wants to string it out over the course of the series, so don't expect any great developments in that area - it's still all smouldering away but not really going anywhere.
There is quite a long series of books planned, I believe, which will cover the period between 1973 and 1980, just before the start of Ashes to Ashes. The idea is to explore more of Gene Hunt’s special corner of purgatory with plenty of cops and robbers action and fun along the way. If this first book is anything to go by, I’ll definitely be following the rest of the story.