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Jonathan Ball

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

A Ruined Planet with Nowhere to Hide: Introducing Rob Boffard’s Debut Science Fiction Thriller, Tracer

TracerJonathan Ball and Orbit Books present Rob Boffard’s upcoming debut science fiction thriller, Tracer:

Our planet is in ruins. Above it orbits Outer Earth: a space station with a million souls on board. They are all that remains of the human race.

Riley Hale is sprinting through the corridors and catwalks of the space station, her feet pounding the metal. The cargo is in her backpack, snuggled against her spine. Riley is a tracer – a courier. When you need something transported to another part of Outer Earth, Riley can get it there. And she’ll get it there fast.

But on a routine run, she’s ambushed by a gang looking for a quick score. And then she finds the severed eyeball, staring up out of her smashed cargo.

Soon, she and her crew are running for their lives, trying to get ahead of a conspiracy that could destroy Outer Earth. And Riley is about to discover that there are some things you can’t run from …

Tracer is a story that never stops moving. It’s a brutal, insane, gripping thrill-ride, where the hero moves like lightning and the consequences for failure are deadly.

“Fast, exhilarating and unforgettable, and once you start it you can’t stop” – Sarah Lotz, author of The Three

“A stunning debut that never lets up, from the nerve-jangling beginning to the explosive end” – James Douglas, author of The Doomsday Machine

Tracer sets a new standard for all-action SF” – Ken MacLeod

About the author

Rob Boffard was born in Johannesburg in 1984. He grew up reading encyclopaedias for fun (he was that kind of kid). He quickly became obsessed with science fiction, action movies and speaking very loudly to anybody who would listen.

In high school, he added a new obsession to his list: hip-hop. While studying journalism at Rhodes University in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, he was an active rap artist, and became one of the presenters on the longest-running rap radio show in Africa. After graduating in 2007, he moved to the UK with his longtime girlfriend, aiming to blow every spare cent they had on travel.

This endeavour was entirely successful, leaving them both broke but very happy. Rob did numerous jobs in the UK, including being a reader at a media analysis agency, and picking cigarettes up off a pub floor. He edited a London music magazine, got himself fired, and as a result undertook a very successful freelance career. In the past five or six years, he has written for The Guardian, Wired Magazine, Huck Magazine, the BBC, and io9. He has also worked on corporate copy for Google and Microsoft.

Rob continued to rap, and released a full album in 2011, entitled African. By this time, he had a successful second career as a sound engineer. This led to him working closely with a creative agency in London, Maple Street Studios, where he worked on campaigns for companies like EA Games, 20th Century Fox and more.

He began writing Tracer at the end of 2011, after realising that while he was quite happy being a journalist, he enjoyed the writing part most of all. It was the first book he had ever written. Orbit Books bought the rights to the trilogy, and the first novel is due to be released in July 2015.

Some more interesting facts about Rob: He permanently lost his sense of smell after falling out of a tree in Zimbabwe, aged four. He runs a hip-hop podcast. He once spent two months traveling 11 000 miles around the United States. He’s a really good cook. In junior school, he wrote to Nelson Mandela, complaining about having to study Afrikaans, and got a reply. He speaks Zulu and French. He is the last person on the planet who collects CDs.

Rob now splits his time between Vancouver, London and Johannesburg. He still loves action movies and science-fiction. He’s online at and on Twitter at @robboffard.

Book details

Image courtesy of Nicole Simpson


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