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Book Review

Book Cover

The Deserter


Author: Peadar Ó Guilín
David Fickling Books
RRP: £12.99
ISBN: 978 0 385 61096 4
Available 05 May 2011

When Stopmouth realises that his tribe is unlikely to survive without the help of the woman he loves, he must abandon those he has vowed to protect to gain access to the roof, the planet spanning computer. Although he makes it he does not find the paradise he was expecting, but rather an overcrowded environment, where religious factions fight against the ruling secular regime. But worse still Stopmouth discovers that the roof is dying...

The Deserter is the second part of Peadar Ó Guilín’s ‘Bone World’ trilogy. This time there is less emphasis on the cannibalistic aspects of the story, which drew notice for the first book The Inferior.

The book, like its predecessor, is a mixture of fantasy and soft science fiction. Science fiction has always been a genre of ideas, which have to make some form of internal sense. Fantasy, on the other hand, can be about any old tosh. So I’m not surprised, though I was disappointed, to find some glaring examples of poor logic in the story. The biggest one has to be Stopmouth’s inability to recognise what a cloud is.

Okay, so his planet is enclosed by a world encompassing machine, an idea better explored by Robert Reed’s Marrow (2000), but even some of the larger buildings in existence today generate their own weather including clouds. It seems inconceivable that the planet itself isn’t large enough to do this. There are other examples, like his discovery of a picture of a bow and arrow, a basic weapon, which not only does his own people seem to have forgotten how to produce, but also the exiles from an advanced technological society never seem to have thought it worth mentioning.

The book is the second part of a trilogy, though with the ending the author appears to have written himself into a corner. The first book was a travelogue across the planet, The Deserter is similarly reliant on its travel motif to maintain pace, though this time Stopmouth gets to travel through a small portion of the planet spanning computer which makes up his world's sky. So the same structure for the third book would seem redundant.

The book is well written, if a little overlong. The last third did start to feel as if all the running around was getting a little repetitive. At 441 pages, I was also disappointed that the author didn’t spend more time on the social and political aspects of the society.

Still, this is a book for young adults, and its adventure aspects should find a ready audience amongst young males.


Charles Packer

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