Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Book Review: Barricade by Jon Wallace

Kenstibec was genetically engineered to build a new world, but the apocalypse forced a career change. These days he drives a taxi instead.
Kenstibec is a member of the 'Ficial' race, a breed of merciless super-humans. Their war on humanity has left Britain a wasteland, where Ficials hide in barricaded cities, besieged by tribes of human survivors. Originally optimised for construction, Kenstibec earns his keep as a taxi driver, running any Ficial who will pay from one surrounded city to another.

The trips are always eventful, but this will be his toughest yet. His fare is a narcissistic journalist who's touchy about her luggage. His human guide is constantly plotting to kill him. And that's just the start of his troubles.

On his journey he encounters ten-foot killer rats, a mutant King with a TV fixation, a drug-crazed army, and even the creator of the Ficial race. He also finds time to uncover a terrible plot to destroy his species for good - and humanity too

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Barricade, the science fiction debut by Jon Wallace. It sounded interesting but I wasn’t rushing to read it. I am glad I eventually picked it up and jumped in as Barricade ended up being pretty good.

One thing I noticed straight away was that Jon Wallace has a good way with words. His writing is descriptive and his world building well executed. He painted a picture of a grim world and I found it easy to envision the nuclear ravaged British Isles. Wallace is also great at writing action scenes, there was plenty going on in this book and he managed to keep me on track and. Where he fell down was in the background information. I felt like I needed more history and a clearer explanation of what had happened. What were the fiscals? Who were the religious people that dropped the bombs? Why was there a war? Who was in control etc, etc. Maybe I just wasn’t engaged enough to find these answers, or maybe they just weren’t there. Either way I wasn’t totally aware of what was going on.

Despite the lack of knowledge the story itself is great and I found the concept interesting. There are a million differences between the Fiscals and ‘reals’ but their goals are that same and they are probably more alike than they realise. The war between them was petty, as it often is in conflict and Kenstibec’s journey through this struggle is often thought provoking and relevant.

Where this book loses points for me is in the characters. This is not a character driven story which I think is a shame. I wanted to love Kenstibec but I couldn’t there was nothing I could connect to and in the end I felt a little indifferent towards him. Fatty, the human guide, was more interesting but again lacked any real personality. For some reason I would have preferred him to have been female, I think it would have come across better but that might be because I felt all the woman in this book weren’t given much to do or any personality. The best example of this is Starvie, a ‘pleasure model,’ who in her own way has the biggest part to play in this book. She has the power to swing things one way or another. Yet despite this the focus is one how beautiful she is and how men cannot control themselves in her presence.

Barricade is a strong debut from Jon Wallace and I am sure we will hear more from him in the future. It isn’t a perfect novel but it is a promising start to what will hopefully be a good career.

3 stars

Find out more:

Published June 19th 2014 by Gollancz, Paperback, 320 pages, book was provided free in exchange for review.

Review by Kate Phillips

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for commenting!