Those of you who read my review of Peadar Ó Guilín’s recent book, The Call, will understand my delight when I learned that his original seies, the Bone World Trilogy has been re-released.
I actually reviewed the first book in the series, The Inferior way back when, and I think it deserves a second airing (trust me, you want to read these).
Here’s that review:
The Inferior is marketed as a young-adult Science Fiction / Fantasy, which is probably good for sales, but I found both the content and the writing decidedly adult in feel. Stopmouth is a hunter in what initially seems like a second-world fantasy setting. The only food available to humans is the flesh of “beasts”, equally intelligent species that look different to humans in every way. There is no agriculture, there is no fishing (water beasts are just as formidable as those on land), and humanity is also food for a number of beast species. The book’s initial chapters paint a grim picture of life in this world, of hunting and being hunted, of trading the weak members of the tribe for the flesh of other, allied species.
Eventually, despite the fact that the world is a hostile place for a small group, Stopmouth and two companions must take a journey across the land, eating everything they encounter… or suffering the alternative. I won’t say more, because spoilers are not good things.
As you can imagine, the book is a dark, often gruesome tale that sucks you in and takes you for a ride without pulling a single punch. This is probably its most endearing trait: it is written for readers intelligent enough to understand that this is a hard world in which soft and fuzzy have no place. The initial sensation that it is dark fantasy fades as more of the world is revealed, and it becomes obvious that we are dealing with core science fiction, and far-future SF that. The world becomes a more and more complex place as it is gradually revealed and the reader understands what is actually happening (and what has happened to bring them there) – while the main character, of course, is mostly in the dark.
My only criticism was that the open ending made it feel like this was the first book in a series, although that wasn’t specified anywhere on the dust jacket. I know this is a trend in the publishing world, but I find it a disturbing one. I love series, but I like to know when a book is part of one!
Having said that, The Inferior is a fascinating journey, and a book that I can recommend with no qualms whatsoever. You WILL enjoy it. That was my take as a reader. As a writer, I looked at it a bit more clinically, and have concluded that Peadar, apart from being a great writer from a technical point of view (I hate you, Peadar) is also extremely savvy about what needs to be done to sell a novel. This one checks all the boxes: it starts in the middle of an action scene, is marketed in a hot subgenre (the same subgenre as, for example, Harry Potter…), and, as the novel goes on, the soup in which the characters are plunged gets thicker and thicker… A clinic on how to write a novel that agents and publishers will snap up, and yet another reason to read the book.
The fact that Ó Guilín ticks the boxes and still manages a great novel is simply a bonus.
Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine writer whose own far-future science fiction novel, Siege, was well-received in its day. Unlike The Inferior, this one deals with all out interstellar war to the death. You can check it out here.