Dec 29, 2011

eBook Review–Roil by Trent Jamieson

Roil is the first book in a duology to be released by Angry Robot books, the second will be called Nights Engines.

The story
Shale is in trouble, dying. A vast, chaotic, monster-bearing storm known only as the Roil is expanding, consuming the land.
Where once there were twelve great cities, now only four remain, and their borders are being threatened by the growing cloud of darkness. The last humans are fighting back with ever more bizarre new machines. But one by one the defences are failing. And the Roil continues to grow.
With the land in turmoil, it’s up to a decadent wastrel, a four thousand year-old man, and a young woman intent on revenge to try to save their city – and the world.

A dancer, macabre.
There are writers that can pump out quality genre novels, that give the slavering hordes what we want, whether it’s Steampunk or Space Opera, or just good honest escapism. 

Then there’s those writers that take those well trodden floor boards and fashion a dance of their own, mixing influences from a number of subgenres until what we have is compelling and unique. 
I think Jamieson is one of those writers, especially with Roil.  It’s Trent’s skill that makes it hard to slot the novel into a nice and neatly labelled pigeon hole.  It has an infusion of Steampunk, with its railways and named engines, airships and the neo-Victorian sentimentality.  The world of Shale gives an impression of a slightly skewed, malevolent Dickensian London – this comes through in the snippets from the history books that are referenced at chapter beginnings, the descriptions of political parties, the dialogue between the characters.
  Cadell nodded his head. “He knew that as soon as he crossed the floor of Parliament, soon as he joined the Confluents, something was coming. He just didn’t expect it to be this. Thought they were all working towards the same thing. Stade proved him wrong. Oh, lad, there are secrets that layer Mirrlees and Shale, sediments of madness and lies more damning than you could believe. Missteps, and murders, from the First Ships down.”
To this Jamieson with his talent for dark fantasy introduces, grotesque and horrifying adversaries in the shape of Quarg hounds and Garment Flutes and spiders that feed on you while you sleep.  But it was the rather surreal visual he evoked with the seemingly innocuous Witmoths, that really made me shiver:
Jeremy grinned, a wide and terrible grin. An actor’s grin, or a mask, for surely it was not his own. “Heat is the issue here, the draw and the reasoning; furnace heat, blood heat. The Roil told me, in its loud old voice. Can’t you hear it?” His smile grew and grew and it came spilling from his mouth, dark and frangible, a softly hissing shadow; moth-like they fluttered. So many of them, the man must be filled with them “Witmoths,” Jeremy whispered.“Thought and madness and command.”
I’d watch a movie based on Roil for that visual alone.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic
This horrifying dark fantasy/steampunk tale is under pinned with the science fiction trope of a long colonised world, with forgotten technologies.  There are the Old men from the seed ships, those that built the ancient metropolises with technologies so indecipherable that they might as well be magic.
There are advanced technologies in play but Shale's inhabitants have only Industrial Age vocabulary and understanding to describe them.  Jamieson is likewise careful in his descriptions of old tech only hinting at what scientific advances may underpin or shape Shale.  The reader then, in that sense is not much better of than the protagonist.

Fan’s of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series will enjoy the Steampunk/Biopunk aspects.  Those with a penchant for sophisticated and subtle horror will enjoy the devious nature of the Roil and Jamieson’s deft descriptions. 

I for one, can’t wait for Nights Engines.


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