We are in the future (a few hundred years or so) and the world has been overtaken by some form of ecological disaster which has apparently left most of the land covered in water. Osiris is a city of great towers and buildings full of the rich while surrounded by refugees living in squalid conditions. There are, of course, tensions between the two, and Osiris concentrates on two characters from opposite sides of this divide: Adelaide, estranged daughter of one of the wealthiest and most important families, and Vikram, former prisoner, protestor and someone who wants to change the lot of the poor outside the city’s limits.
Why did I want to read it?
As you will know by now, I love sci-fi, I love post-apocalyptic stuff, but I bought this mostly because I was lucky enough to hear EJ Swift read from one of the later books in this trilogy at an event earlier this year and met her briefly; I liked her a lot.
What did I think of this?
I’m still in a bit of a reading slump and also went on holiday in the middle of reading this novel so I read it more slowly than I perhaps would have otherwise, but I really enjoyed it. I thought the world-building was very strong, and I got a real sense of the society that Adelaide in particular was part of, the politics and social conventions and the way in which the young rich fill their time with excess and frivolity to escape the rigidity of the world they are part of; Vikram’s world is messier and less clear but that makes sense to me as I would expect it to be chaotic and unstructured with shifting alliances based on a different type of power. The way the two characters are brought together and who their perspectives begin to shift as they experience each others worlds (more Vikram than Adelaide as we spend the majority of the book within Osiris itself) was fascinating, and I came to like both characters very much.
The plot is in some ways very straightforward; Vikram needs a supporter within Osiris to help him achieve his aims, and Adelaide needs someone to help her break the wall of silence around the disappearance (and assumed suicide) of her twin brother, and they are brought together in an alliance born out of necessity. Of course, it doesn’t work out as planned but along the way we discover with them both that there is more going on than meets the eye, and this presumably forms the basis of the rest of the trilogy.
I liked Adelaide a great deal. I’ve seen a couple of reviews elsewhere that suggest that she just responds to the men in her life rather than taking action in her own right, but I didn’t get that sense at all. In particular, her drive to find out what’s happened to her brother seems very much her own and if one of my brothers went missing in such circumstances I would like to think I would focus on finding out what happened to him too. And the rest of her behaviour seems consistent with the society she lives in as it’s described to us.
I didn’t warm to Vikram quite so much until later in the book, as I couldn’t really understand what he thought he was going to be able to achieve.
So, a well-written and absorbing first novel, and I’ve already got a hold of the two sequels. Definitely worth your time.