Inish Carraig by Jo Zebedee

Vertigo

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I thoroughly enjoyed this first contact story from Jo Zebedee. It strikes an excellent balance between character- and plot-driven story. There are around half a dozen major characters who are all well drawn and easy to either sympathise with or dislike as appropriate and the plot, whilst not containing any major unexpected twists, had more than adequate suspense and, along with action scenes that gripped without being too frenetic, kept the pages turning.

There was, however, one plot element that I found a little difficult to swallow; it seems unlikely to me that an alien race having discovered a technological species on Earth would only decide they were sentient and then show remorse after bombing and almost totally destroying almost that entire technological foundation and a large proportion of the population at the same time. I also struggled a little with the relationship between a sergeant and his colonel; the reporting direct to the colonel and the general interaction between them didn’t really fit with the normal military chain of command especially when earlier in the book the sergeant was clearly reporting to a captain.

But it’s easy enough to let those points slide and enjoy the ride through the ruined Belfast Streets and Northern Irish countryside in the company of characters who, both teens and adults, are convincingly written and whose fates I quickly found mattered very much to me. A ride that maintains pace from the first page to the last and is rarely slowed by unnecessary padding.

4/5 stars
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
Yay, you liked it, thank you. When - if - I go back to the world I plan to explain a little more about the aliens' mentality and what they really knew and why their actions were what they were. A few others have mentioned it. :)
 

Vertigo

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It's always a difficult decision to know when to reveal info:

For example I was twitching about the two little robots apparently constructed by a human and yet also apparently way beyond human technology level. Until you eventually cleared that up with the explanation that they had been cannibalised from alien robots.
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
It's always a difficult decision to know when to reveal info:

For example I was twitching about the two little robots apparently constructed by a human and yet also apparently way beyond human technology level. Until you eventually cleared that up with the explanation that they had been cannibalised from alien robots.
Interestingly I am trying to adapt it to a screenplay at the mo and that jarred with me today so I brought that explanation forwards.
 

Brian G Turner

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it seems unlikely to me that an alien race having discovered a technological species on Earth would only decide they were sentient and then show remorse after bombing

I didn't have a problem with this, and presumed there was a load of Zelotyr politics happening above the level of the story. After all, in WWII, the Allies were happy to bomb Germany and Japan into the stone age, then try to be friends.
 

Vertigo

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I didn't have a problem with this, and presumed there was a load of Zelotyr politics happening above the level of the story. After all, in WWII, the Allies were happy to bomb Germany and Japan into the stone age, then try to be friends.
I accept that, Brian, but whilst we may have demonised them we didn't claim they weren't sentient. It's the idea of believing that a species might be technological and yet not sentient that I found strange. Jo indicated above that she may revisit this world and give more explanation of the Zelo mentality which would be great. I just felt that should have been given here; rather than just a statement that they hadn't thought humans were sentient, I needed a reason for that belief. I'm not saying it's impossible, I could come up with possible explanations for such thinking, but it is odd and as such I felt it needed a little more explanation. It's not a major point but it did impact plausibility for me.
 

Jo Zebedee

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I accept that, Brian, but whilst we may have demonised them we didn't claim they weren't sentient. It's the idea of believing that a species might be technological and yet not sentient that I found strange. Jo indicated above that she may revisit this world and give more explanation of the Zelo mentality which would be great. I just felt that should have been given here; rather than just a statement that they hadn't thought humans were sentient, I needed a reason for that belief. I'm not saying it's impossible, I could come up with possible explanations for such thinking, but it is odd and as such I felt it needed a little more explanation. It's not a major point but it did impact plausibility for me.

I think - without getting too much into the technicalities of writing styles and such like - this is the limiting factor of 3rd person close. My characters simply don't know the truth and none of them are in the position to. There are challenges to the viewpoint that it was all a mistake - Peters in particular holds no truck with it - but we have to ask ourselves how much of a reliable narrator Henry (since it is he who espouses it most clearly) is regarding this.

Henry knows what people think of him. He has to believe he is working for the greater good - if that takes a little bit of twisting belief, then I think we all would to continue in that role.

The problem with an unreliable narrator in close third (which I actually think we all are in our real thoughts - we're not always right about things) is that there is no room to actually say to the reader this bit might be true, or not, without either bringing in a point of view who does know (which would have been the colonel, but which would then have spoiled other things) or going to omnipresent, which I didn't want.

So, I'd agree with @Vertigo that it can present a problem in terms of credibility and @Brian Turner that in the context of the story most people will roll with it.

Obviously I don't actually want to say what, if anything, lay behind the Zelo's attack, because that would be a huge spoiler for the sequel, assuming I ever get time to write it.... :D
 

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