Time for another reprint of a review I first published elsewhere; this piece, about EJ Swift's debut novel Osiris, appeared in SFX magazine back at the beginning of this year, and somehow or other I seem to have forgotten to repost it until now. Still, book two of the series is out in the US next month (although not in the UK until February next year, alas), so let's pretend I'm just being timely, eh?
Dystopia is back. Granted, it’s always been literary fiction’s preferred mode for dabbling in genre, and in the Young Adult field you can’t move for the stuff. But only recently have writers of adult sf begun returning, in any number, to the gloomy well labelled Tales Of Little Folks Crushed Beneath The Wheels Of The Merciless System. Yay?
Step up, little folks: Adelaide is a spoiled and disaffected scion of the Rechnovs, a ludicrously wealthy family whose members have massive political clout within the floating city of Osiris and “more skeletons than they have closets”; Vikram is a boy from the wrong side of the tracks – aka the Western Quarter, where Osiris’s poor are kept cooped up and half-starved behind checkpoints bristling with guns – with a burning sense of injustice. Together, they fight crime.
Well, sort of. Together, they form an uneasy alliance with conflicting goals related to crime in a kind of abstract sense, and spend much of their time not being entirely honest with each other. Both are compelling, flawed individuals, although Vikram never quite convinces as a fish out of water among the rich, fitting in too easily unless the story requires him not to. The plot works better as background mystery than – as it becomes towards the end – foreground drama; but it’s the characters, and what their lives show us of the fascinating, stratified world of Osiris, that are the heart of this promising debut novel.