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Book Review

Book Cover



Author: E. J. Swift
Del Rey
RRP: £12.99, US $26.99
ISBN: 978 0 091 95305 8
Available 07 February 2013

Since the Great Storm the city of Osiris has been a divided society. In the east the cites builders live a life of luxury, enjoying all that their technology can provide, in the west the refugees from the Great Storm live hard, squalid existences, in crime ridden shanty towns, with barely enough to eat. Adelaide Rechnov is the daughter of a founding family, rich and privileged, but she is dissatisfied with her part in society and especially her family’s treatment of her twin brother... Vikram Bai lives in the west. Having served prison time he seeks a way to address the inequalities in Osiris. When Adelaide’s brother mysteriously disappears circumstances throw the two together, but in trying to find her brother the two uncover the darker secrets of Osiris...

Osiris is the first novel in a proposed dystopian trilogy, by first time novelist, E. J. Swift.

I love a good dystopian book and Swift has done an excellent job at world building a new one, with some individual and refreshing elements. The society which has evolved fifty years after the Great Storm which cut the city off from the rest of the planet is believable and worth investigating. Having the two main characters grow up in the city concentrates the story on what is happening now, rather than get bogged down in the ecological politics of how the city came to be.

The tensions in the society makes its long term future potentially unsustainable as the book examines the treatment of the westerners in their role as refugees, a status they seem to have been stuck with for the whole of the fifty years. The elite, rather than find a long term solution, would rather erect a wall between the two halves and let the westerners rot. Like all good science fiction Swift has used the structure of the novel to reflect many things which happen today, challenging the reader to think about the rights and wrongs of similar situations.

The containing structure is not unlike a mash up between Metropolis and Stargate: Atlantis, the latter only because you don’t get many books detailing the culture of what is in effect a floating city. The theme of workers revolution being aided by a member of the elite is not a new idea, but it is executed well in the novel. As part of a proposed trilogy there is much to get through in introducing the characters and setting, but I did find the book slow to get moving.

Adelaide Rechnov, a wealthy socialite is not happy with the status quo, feeling stifled by both her society and her influential family, to the point that she has chosen to change her surname. When the book opens her rebellions have been small and directionless, this changes with the disappearance of her brother. Through the book her own form of rebellion goes from being a nebulous thing to being more directed as she discovers more about the city.

Vikram Bai, although having spent time in jail is not essentially a bad person, striving, as he does to change the inequalities which are killing the westerners, his spur to action is the hanging of his friend, probably on spurious grounds, he sees in Adelaide a way into the world of the east, which is denied him through birth and circumstances.

As a first book Swift has produced a multi-layered experience, many aspects of the novel deserve praise, though personally I thought that it could have done with a bit of trimming, but there is much to get through and Swift takes us through Osiris with the skilful ease of her writing.


Charles Packer

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