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Roil by Trent Jamieson

roil cover rb

New review now up at Slacker Heroes.

Margaret nodded, and David considered her resolute expression, and the way she packed away her weaponry with an efficiency at once beautiful and terrifying. Rather like the Roil.

“We’ll make them pay. We’ll wipe the blasted earth of them. I’ll not see another city fall,” Margaret said, as though she was capable of such things, as though she might singlehandedly save the world.

The Roil is a turbulent mass of darkness, death and monsters that is steadily filling the sky, destroying civilisation and heating up the world til it’s the right temperature for full scale invasion. You know when you look up and the clouds have swarmed over that blue sky you were enjoying? You shiver, and curse the fact that you left your jacket at home. Imagine something like that, but where the clouds are full of things called Quarg Hounds or Wit Moths, and they’re going to block out the sun, kill you horribly and then swarm out of your eyes. You won’t need your jacket any more, honey.

Jamieson’s novel takes us across the land that the Roil is overtaking, following a group of people with nothing in common but the desire to survive and/or destroy the Roil. Can a drug addict, a plucky young woman and a mysterious Old Man stop the encroaching destruction?

There’s a lot to like here, though in places I wanted more. The world building is intricate, imaginative and impressive and I am sure that what we see here represents an iceberg mass that, right now, only Trent Jamieson knows about. I love the variety of people who populate this country, and the thought that’s gone into the towns they hail from. There are the cavalier Drifters who live in the sky and despise the land lubbers, the merciless Verger assassins who kill for the state, and the scary Cuttlefolk, who seem to be man, bird and insect. I was reminded more than once of China Mieville and the original detail of his Bas Lag metropolis. That’s a compliment.

But on a smaller level, scene by scene, the book would benefit from more detail. I’d like to know about the rooms these people are in, the routes they take there, what’s inside their heads. There are missed opportunities to tell us more about this world and these characters. They travels for miles and visit cities they’ve never seen before, and barely react. The writing is so sparse sometimes that it’s more like an outline or a script than fleshed out fiction, which is a shame as I’m sure there’s more to tell. Too much is held back from the reader, which may be a tactic to build tension but can verge on confusion instead.

The nasty stuff is deliciously horrid, with gore and viciousness that Jamieson should be proud of. The concept of the Roil, and the way I can so easily visualise it, makes it a magnificent monster and one I don’t expect to be easily beaten. I liked that; it’s good to read something where I can’t tell if the good guys will win or not. A lot of people will enjoy the original world building here, and might not mind the scarcity of detail which made me balk. I hope so – let me know what you think.


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Quick Quick Slow

feet to fast for shutter to catchI’ve not yet finished the draft I thought I’d be done with last month, but I have had some great ‘ping!’s about what this middle section needs. Insights that help change it from ‘and then, after The Beginning, they decide to go Slay The Baddies, uncovering (and solving) a Mystery in the process, which leads nicely to The End‘ to something with more substance – less of a service-station stop en route to the end, more of a village in its own right.

I wonder if I’d have got those pings if I’d hurtled through the draft at the pace I’d intended? Yes, I probably would. Going slower got my brain composting some stuff and working on some neat revelations, but had I gone faster and – crucially – worked every day, I’d have been so submerged in the story that the same revelations would have come and probably been signposted more clearly. No justification for slackening the pace, sadly, but good to know that both speeds still get me the same story.

My reading’s going much more swiftly, what a surprise, eh? I loved A Long Long Sleep, by Anna Sheehan, despite a slow start, and stayed up late to finish it. Review for the BFS to come. I was angry and disappointed by The Magician King; Fillory sounded like my kind of place til I realised that all Grossman’s strong female characters meet terrible ends (or are, like Janet, left on P.27 and never seen again). Audra at Unabridged Chick puts it well –

‘I don’t mind darker themes and I don’t mind a harder edge to my fantasy — but I want it doled out in equal part.  Sparing all the male magicians while making the women all victims is frustrating, and whatever pay out comes at the end never feels enough to make the violence okay.  It’s disappointing and frustrating and frankly, feels cheap.  

Her review is here and my review for the British Fantasy Society is linked to here.

Talking of the BFS – it’s FantasyCon this month! It’s the first one I’m attending, and I’m very excited. Thank you to Lou Morgan for writing a newbie A-Z – check it out on her blog here.

Right, must get back to The Sims – oops, no, I mean work. Honest, guv.


Things I’m doing this week:

Watching: Lost Girl, Season 1 on Syfy (great so far!)

Reading: Roil, by Trent Jamieson (also great so far)

Eating: punk rock vegan cookies. If they’re vegan I can eat as many as I want, right?

Listening to: Pot Kettle Black, Tilly and The Wall

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