Review: Inish Carraig by Jo Zebedee

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Nov 23, 2002

This is an exceptional novel. The pace is incredible, with hard-hitting characters, and a powerful plot. It’s also intelligent, and cleverly juxtaposes the sectarianism of Northern Ireland with that of two different alien races with interests on Planet Earth.

The story:

John is a fifteen-year old boy, struggling to help his younger brother and sisters survive in a bombed-out Belfast, which has been left under the control of dangerous criminal gangs...

Henry Carter is a police inspector - and a hated liaison for the invading Zelotyr. When he picks John up during curfew, he finds himself caught up in a crime of galactic importance - one that will decide the fate of earth, and humanity...


It really was hard to put this book down. I was expecting a strong opening, that would fade into a quiet middle, before picking up towards the end. Instead, the pace is unrelenting, as the plot unfolds to reveal complex turns and real surprises.

The setting is amazing - Jo Zebedee clearly uses imagery from the “troubles” of Belfast to create an electric context, that creates far bigger tensions than should ordinarily be expected in this sort of story.

Added to that, the invasion already finished a year before the story opens - so there’s no high drama of seeing earth attacked. Instead, we have a focus on survival, and the dealing with the aftermath - one that becomes increasingly engaging as the plot progresses.

Overall, this is an ‘alien invasion’ story with a difference - it’s unique, intelligent, and fearlessly tense.

And yet - here’s the biggest surprise by far - this is a self-published book. Apparently it was almost picked up by a Big 6 publisher, but the marketing dept wasn’t sure whether they could sell it as a YA fiction or adult science fiction novel. So they let it go.

Now Jo Zebedee has paid for a full edit, polished it up, and self-published. And I’m so glad she did, because this is such a wonderfully told story - and certainly one of my Top 10 favourite reads this year.
Let's hope it makes a bundle and the Big 6 feel as silly the chaps who turned down JK Rowling :)
What a great endorsement Brian. I am looking forward to it even more now.
I'm getting so much amazing feedback for my wee Belfast book, including this on @Juliana blog:

Next, I took a breather from middle grade fiction to read Inish Carraig by Jo Zebedee. I know Jo from an SFF forum we both belong to, and she’s a superb writer. You can read my review of her first novel, space opera Abendau’s Heir, here on the blog, and Jo was also a good sport and talked a little about the settings for Inish in my Spotlight series.

Inish Carraig is a post-alien-invasion thriller set in present day Northern Ireland. When Belfast teenager John Dray inadvertently helps release a compound that wipes out the alien invaders, he ends up in a high-tech prison run by the Galactic Council. Together with police officer Henry Carter, he uncovers a conspiracy that could mean the end of all humans. Now the race is on to get the word out and save the world.

Inish is one of those fast-and-furious reads, the sort of book you pick up for a look and only put down hours later with a satisfied sigh. One of Jo’s strengths is character building, and both John and Carter are a testimony to this. And yes, there are maps: John’s personal, visual mapping of the ruined streets of Belfast, as well as the maps of the prison itself, crucial to the plot.
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Sorry, this thread is so handy to bring reviews together into. I'm floored by these, and had another two fantastic five star reviews today (this doesn't happen to me...) here's the first:

This is the second of Jo Zebedee's books I have read. I loved the first (Abendau's Heir), but this is even better.

Set in post-invasion Belfast, the story revolves around two main characters and is refreshing change from all the Troubles-related fiction that we usually associate with Belfast. Two Alien species are eyeing Earth's resources hungrily, and humans are forced to make concessions in order to survive. No-on knows this better than Henry, a policeman and John, a teenage boy.

The stakes are high with the lives of their loved ones on the table. It takes all John's wits and the survival instincts he's developed on the streets of the ruined city to keep him and his best friend alive.

Gritty and fast-paced, this is a difficult book to put down. The author draws us into the lives of the characters until we feel what they feel, laughing and crying with them, holding our breath while they take incredible risks and face terrifying challenges. I found myself breathing as though I'd just run a race when I finally put this down at the end.

Satisfying and extremely well-written, this will appeal to a wide range of audiences.

Highly recommended.
And this one. Wow.

Jo Zebedee has done it again! I really enjoyed her début novel Abendau's Heir, and was curious to see how I'd like this stand alone novel. Well I loved it. It was a fast paced story with believable characters and a great setting.

Imagine aliens have invaded, your parents are dead, and you have starving siblings to fend for. John does a task in exchange for food, but little does he know that his life was about to change forever. With a whole alien race wiped off the planet, Earth is now vulnerable and must appease the Galactic Council. John is sent to their new prison: Inish Carraig. With a great cast of characters, they must uncover the truth...before it's too late.

I highly recommend this book, and I can't wait for Zebedee's next book.
Hell, Jo.
I was supposed to get some sleep while flying between San Fransisco and Lyon yesterday.
Instead I just read Inish Carraig. I couldn't put it down.
Could you put some sort of warning on the cover that 11 hour flights are probably going to be lost to it?

An absolutely ruddy wonderful book.
The characters were all so interesting and believable. The action, and the pace were just spellbinding. And the overall story was so interesting.

I have no personal knowledge of Belfast or ability to compare John's struggles to Belfast's history, but I can tell that you've used a lot of your own experiences in many of the descriptions.

Where can I go to say this again and tell non-chrons people to read it?
Oh, wow. Thank you so much (that's made my week. Absolutely. And I'm so glad Belfast came across strongly in it.)

If you want to put a review up - and please, please, don't think I'm touting for one, as I mostly try to avoid that - then either Goodreads or Amazon is brilliant.

And I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

  1. I bumped into this review this week and was delighted by it. There are loads of spoilers in it, be warned, but it captured so much of the setting of Inish Carraig and so much of what I'd hoped to acheive - particularly the insular nature, that, for John, Josey and Carter Belfast is all they know and all that matters to them. (@dannymcg - which, coming from the other thread, is why I didn't write the conventional aliens-blast-Earth story :))
Okey Dokey Jo.
One of my fave types of story is Aliens blasting Earth. - Topps Mars Attack cards influenced my developing brain

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