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3.59  ·  Rating details ·  592 ratings  ·  81 reviews
From renowned theoretical physicist, broadcaster and author Jim Al-Khalili, comes this thrilling debut novel drawing on cutting-edge science and set in a near-future full of dazzling technologies.

2041 and the world as we know it grinds to a halt. Our planet seems to be turning against itself - it would appear that the magnetic field, that protects life on Earth from deadly
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 18th 2019 by Bantam Press
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Average rating 3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  592 ratings  ·  81 reviews

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Apr 20, 2019 rated it liked it
You may know from my booklist that I do like a good techno-thriller. I tend to think that such an interest is to do with my love of Arthur C Clarke novels, where big scientific ideas were often expounded in an entertaining way. These books then led to me reading many scientists doing similar things Carl Sagan, even Isaac Asimov, and more recently authors such as Stephen Baxter, as well as thriller writers like Michael Crichton, Neal Stephenson and Frank Schatzing.

With that in mind, this one has
Shabbeer Hassan
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
So what happens when Michael Bay and John Woo collaborate to write a sci-fi book, well meet Sunfall! Cartoonish villains, laughable character depth and a sheer number of tech billionaires which Forbes annual lists would gasp over in shock! Cool bits of science, hodge-podge execution and despite Jim being an excellent science communicator, this one is a definite miss!

My Rating - 2/5
I would have given this 1 star, but then being an academic myself I am partial to established academicians (unlike
Niki Groves
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant, scary and believable.
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, signed
I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pre-release copy of this book after seeing the author at a promotional event at the 2019 Edinburgh Science Festival, and read it in basically one sitting. Having lived in the world of academic physics, and as a fan of apocalyptic fiction, sci-fi, physics and good science in books this is an easy winner for me.

I'd have liked to see more of Shireen and some exploration of her relationships, I missed her in the middle of the book when she vanished for a
Jan 22, 2020 rated it did not like it
This book was laughingly awful. It felt like Al-Khalili wanted to write an action novel... but also wanted to write a realistic sci-fi novel. What ends up happening is that we have poor characterizations, many (MANY) instances of deus ex machina (if you've read my other reviews, you know that's a big deal for me).

What is left is a completely disjointed mess. We are introduced to characters that are killed pages later for reasons which could have easily been explained from the POV of one of the
Sep 30, 2019 rated it liked it
In theory I love a science fiction book written by an actual theoretical physicist. And the science in this book was definitely great... I assume, I obviously havent got a clue. But it all sounded very convincing. The plot just got a little bit too ridiculous in the last quarter, and there was no satisfying ending. Still an enjoyable read by an author I really like. ...more
Victor Sonkin
A sci-fi about a global disaster: the planet loses its magnetic field, leading to all kinds of trouble (and promising even worse things); a group of dedicated scientists is going to fight it; some sinister people are against. Kind of laughable, but readable.
David Logan
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
To be published in April. Order your copy now.

My immediate problem with this debut novel was that I had the author's smooth, calm TV voice in my head as I read it. The characters used profanities, and they simply don't seem right in an Al-Kahalili tone. The novel itself is confidently written. It's what used to be called (and might still be) "hard" science fiction, in contrast to more whimsical stuff with a questionable scientific base. The science in Sunfall, or Sun Fall, is not something I
Fabio Brady
May 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
A great tale for the science nerd. I really enjoyed the physics and tech that featured here. Jim really uses his physics background to build a world that although futuristic, is not necessarily outlandish and quite possible.

The story itself was okay but at times quite cheesy. It's about the world ending (original theme I know!) but it didn't fall into the category of being predictable (other than the world not actually ending).

The short chapters keep up the pace, and we follow three main
Ill give this 2.5 stars rounded up to 3 (being generous). This is a fun and easy read but the characters and scene development are not great. A little basic and 2 dimensional. It gets 3 rather than 2 stars purely cos it was easy and light to read, not for the character depth, scene development or the writing. ...more
Jamie Bowen
May 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
The Earth is dying but theres a massive cover up in place, to prevent mass hysteria but also to protect the plans of a death cult who believe humans are a plague and need to be eradicated. When an Iranian cyber hacker discovers the plot and obtains the files, she tries to find an ally who can help her tell the world. Up steps British scientist Sarah Maitlin, just appointed to an important UN Committee trying to find a solution to the problem of the magnetic shield breaking down. And so begins ...more
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Asier Uribarri
Nov 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Lets be honest, youre here for science and catastrophe. This book excels at both. ...more
An enjoyable apocalyptic thriller, which is more science-focused than character-based. It's an entertaining and fast read, with the science mostly well explained, but the characters fall rather flat.
Peter Kobryn
Jun 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, science
I'm a big fan of the Professor, have watched countless of his programmes and listened to many of his interviews and radio broadcasts so I was always going to have a positive take on this , but truthfully you will enjoy it more if you are interested in the science rather than approaching it as a work of fiction, characterisation and creativity.

When the Prof veered onto areas of trying to write dialogue and even, at one stage, a budding romance the flow became clunky and laboured , stilted and
Rohit Goswami
Jan 02, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dropped
I hate writing this review. I think Jim is a brilliant broadcaster. However the book is just. Bad. It's too neat. Everything is just one popular pseudoscience prediction after another. Maybe it's just meant for another audience. Either way. This book didn't work for me. Dropped after the 50th genius billionaire was introduced over 3 pages.
Sue Chant
May 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: sff-unclassified
The science was excellent, and the extrapolation of current tech twenty years into the future was very plausible, however characterization was poor and some of the exposition clunky. All in all a decent read.
May 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've watched a lot of Jim Al Khalili's documentaries and have always enjoyed his clarity of presentation and his quiet and charming enthusiasm for his subjects. When I heard he'd written a novel, it was a must read. The one thing I didn't check, was what sort of novel. I'm not all that keen on end of the world is nigh thrillers, though I've read a few in my time (which is why this is 4 stars not 5.)
The style of this book is classic big stage thriller, with the action being handed off between
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
90s blockbuster thriller, more of the 'deep impact' than 'contact' variety (though many of contact's themes also pop up), but heavy on the theoretical physics plus moments of the topside, plugged in half of 'the matrix' interspersed for good measure.

cyber hacker shireen's world was the most interesting to me, though it quickly devolved into the implausibility of an action thriller then petered out, leaving her missing from much of the rest of the book, before returning with some of her core
Mike Franklin
Aug 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Sunfall is Al-Khalilis first novel though not his first book having written a number of science-for-the-lay-reader books. Al-Khalili is a professor of theoretical physics and holds the chair of public engagement in science at the university of Surrey, so he is certainly well qualified to make a hard science fiction book in which the science is neither overwhelming nor too confusing. And this he has done admirably well. He is maybe not quite so well qualified when it comes to writing a novel; ...more
Oct 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi
DNF but I feel that this book could be one that would rate much higher and more engrossing for a different reader. For this reason I am breaking my rule of not including DNF books in my goodreads list, purely because I would recommend this to the science fiction reader who enjoys exploring technical scientific concepts and developments within a story based format.

For me unfortunately, physics is my least favourite of the sciences and I lean more towards science fiction that explores
Olga Gibbs
Sep 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
13 hours on audiobook, so if you're after value for money, that was definitely it.
I really enjoyed this book. It was the first book I finished this year.
the main and massive plus, and selling point of the story, was the fact that the story was developed by a real scientist. The future developments and innovations implemented in the story were believable and well-explained. the suggestion of the weakining magnetic field was well thought-out as well as the steps would be implemented to resolve it,
Francesco Petraccone
Vote: 2,50
Class: L-B1 (FP)

Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics was just amazing and I thought this book could be something similar to The Martian, with hard science but maybe better (better written, hopefully).
Sadly, this book was a great disappointment.
The author certainly is a great science communicator but he is not so great when it comes to fiction books: the story feels predictable (with all its twists) and the characters almost hollow.
I couldn't care for them and for the fate of
Paul Pechey
Aug 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Started out really well but ultimately lacked a bit of pace, characterisation, and dare I say it, suspense. A good fiction debut by the author but I felt the reader could tell at times that Al-Khalili is a scientist first. Often I felt as if he was trying to explain the future in the context of 2019 technology rather than just letting the reader roll with it and allowing their imagination do the work. Too many incidental characters came and went and the main protagonists lacked dimension in my ...more
Alex Norton
Mar 07, 2020 rated it liked it
I love the author, but he definitely needed better guidance on this one. What could have been an interesting scifi book instead goes down the thriller route which exposes Al-Khalili's limitations as a writer. Not sure if the editors gave him an "ABC Primer of thriller writing" but we have all the tropes here, from washed-up heroes in need of rehabilitation, reconnecting to estranged family members, villains, tenuous and "I've got to have a love interest because my editor tells me so"

And so, from
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
So the magnetic pole thing is not a new idea, but can be interesting to explore. The book starts off pretty well. By the middle, it's a bang-average thriller/disaster novel. But unfortunately, it goes downhill from there. There are too many conspiracies and main characters' feelings and such (the characters were forced and pretty flat, so their "emotions" are double annoying). The cliche was overpowering in the end. The calamity that had befallen earth was completely sidelined for the heroes' ...more
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
I was loaned a copy of this book and told "I would enjoy it". Hesitatingly I started it with this burden upon me. But I soon was hooked. The short chapter format helped me enormously - especially as I was also read Duncton Quest at the same time where chapters are so long.
The story has hard science which I don't pretend to understand but Al-Khalili made it understandable for the story - after all some of this stuff is yet to be discovered by scientists. The characters are well drawn and help
Jun 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Entertaining thriller, lots of pace, lots of drama, nice to see thrillers starring different types of people - no square-jawed ex-special services operatives, or alcoholic cops.

The story is based on interesting scientific concepts - the appendix describes how close they are to currently accepted wisdom. The main events are "when, not if" occurrences, and the book considers how human society will react, through the lens of several protagonists, all of whom are a little one-dimensional but
Erik Hebestreit
Sep 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Entertaining story that also serves as a warning for possible implications of climate change, mass surveillance, and use of AI. Many of the predictions made about the future seem very possible and sometimes a bit intimidating. However, especially towards the end of the book, I feel like the author's imagination went a bit out of hand. I found it a pity that some of the explained physics is just plain wrong. For example: no, you cannot "squeeze out" monochromatic extreme UV light from an LED. And ...more
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REVIEW - DISCUSSION 2 4 Aug 05, 2019 01:56AM  

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Jim Al-Khalili(born Jameel Sadik Al-Khalili) is an Iraqi-born British theoretical physicist, author and science communicator. He is Professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey. He has hosted several BBC productions about science and is a frequent commentator about science in other British media venues.

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