Inish Carraig Review

  1. SPoots

    SPoots Well-Known Member

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    Just this second finished reading Inish Carraig by Jo Zebedee, and I had to quickly rattle out my thoughts on it.

    Set in N. Ireland after an alien invasion, Inish Carraig follows John Dray, a teenager in the ruins of Belfast. After unwittingly releasing a virus that nearly wipes out one of the invading alien races, John is found guilty of xenocide and sentenced to jail at Inish Carraig, an alien-run prison on what was once Rathlin Island. However, all is not as it seems at the prison and John must try to survive and get word to the outside world of the truth behind the virus.

    This book is a lot of fun to read. The characters are well realised and portrayed in a way that really captures the character of N. Ireland. As a N. Irish native myself (despite an English accent so posh I constantly sound like I'm asking for a cup of tea), it is really cool to see this little country, with its fascinating cultural character, get some attention that is outside of its turbulent history. While Zebedee does a great job at world building and presenting us with the mechanics of a post-invasion Earth as a whole, the novel never loses track of its local perspective.

    Where the novel truly shines is in its depictions of post-war life. This is something we rarely see in scifi. In movies and other books, we tend to only see the invasion itself and if the post-invasion period is addressed at all, then it is only to show how it allowed human technology to advance. This is not the case in Inish Carraig. Everything feels very real, so that while we see the diplomacy of an Earth suddenly finding itself part of a galactic community, we also see the struggle for daily survival on the streets of Belfast. These moments in particular feel like they could belong to almost anywhere that has seen conflict, and adds a level of reality to everything the characters face.

    The aliens and the relationship between the novel's three races is also well done, particularly the Zelo, the initial invaders of Earth. Zebedee starts off presenting them as little more than the invaders, to be hated accordingly, but does a good job at building a certain level of depth and complexity to them, while still keeping them alien, something best reflected by the attitude of the policeman Carter, probably my favourite character within the story.

    However, as with any book, there are some issues. The main one I found was the pacing. This is especially jarring early on, where it seems large time jumps occur between chapters, with little chance for the reader to catch up. Meanwhile the time in the titular prison felt disappointingly short. I would have liked more time experiencing the alien prison life, rather than the two or three days it feels like we get, although this may be more due to the fact that I came to this novel expecting something like Shawshank Redemption with aliens.

    There are a number of other points which the novel tends to skim over. The bots are a particular point of contention for me. Without giving much away, they prove to be vital to the story, but I find it difficult to believe that, in a place with as high level security as we are led to believe Inish Carraig has, they wouldn't have been checked more closely. The ending also gave me slight flashes of Lord of the Flies. The second alien race, and the one which the story spends the most time with of the two, also feel sadly underdeveloped, starting off with a good deal of intrigue surrounding them, before becoming a little cartoonish at points, although they do have a real threatening feel to them and the scene where Sean is given a lift home by one and his family's subsequent escape was particularly tense without devolving to action movie cliches.

    All in all, I definitely enjoyed Inish Carraig. It featured characters who were well developed and felt like real people, and a setting that presented a fresh and original take on a rather tired scifi trope. I know Jo Zebedee has talked about working on its sequel, which I will be very much looking forward to.

    You can find Inish Carraig on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
     
    Oct 9, 2017
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  2. Jo Zebedee

    Jo Zebedee Aliens vs Belfast.

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    Many thanks! Early on, my then sf beta suggested strongly I get rid of the bots, but I held onto them and they've divided opinion ever since.

    Always listen to your bet-as? :D
     
    Oct 9, 2017
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  3. SPoots

    SPoots Well-Known Member

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    First, hats off for a glorious pun.

    Second, the thing is I really liked the bots. I thought thy were given distinct personality and a much needed source of information. However it also felt like we didn't see enough of them doing their main purpose and, as I said, somethings felt a little off.
     
    Oct 9, 2017
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  4. Jo Zebedee

    Jo Zebedee Aliens vs Belfast.

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    It's been two years since I published Inish - which was already about three years old when I did, so the book dates back to my first year as a writer. I've always felt it has its flaws - I'm surprised how popular it became when Abendau, which is my more thought out work, remains more niche (which is a pity because book 2 and 3 are, I think, very very strong).

    I think - with the distance of time - what Inish did well it did very very well and that was capturing the feel,voice and characters of Northern Ireland. That was probably more important to me than the sf elements and has grown again with Waters and the Wild which is as much about the Glens as it is the fairies.

    That blend is something I can't see myself not exploring further. Perhaps I'll bring N Irish* genre towards the more mainstream Irish market - or make N Irish sff a thing in the genre market!

    * because this is not a book about Ireland, but NI, and I am not a writer about Ireland, but NI. Which is good - to give that voice a new vehicle
     
    Oct 9, 2017
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  5. SPoots

    SPoots Well-Known Member

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    I hope you do, might give me a chance :)
     
    Oct 9, 2017
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  6. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    It's interesting to see discussion of the bots - I noticed them in the story, but I really didn't give them much thought. :)
     
    Oct 9, 2017
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  7. Jo Zebedee

    Jo Zebedee Aliens vs Belfast.

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    At one point there was a lot more about their development but during the rewrite with the agent that got lost with much of Henry's POV. When it came to rebuilding the book to what it now is that storyline didn't fit comfortably back in.
     
    Oct 9, 2017
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  8. williamjm

    williamjm Well-Known Member

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    I do agree with most of your review, but I think I'd disagree about the pacing, I liked that it moved through the plot at quite a fast pace and I think it suited the story.

    Like you, I'd have been interested in hearing more about the aliens, although it might have been hard to fit that into the book because it's important to the plot that the human characters don't know much about them.
     
    Oct 9, 2017
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  9. Jo Zebedee

    Jo Zebedee Aliens vs Belfast.

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    It is the critical thing - and the marmite moment - that the reader knows NOTHING the characters don't. It keeps an unbalance and a sense the reader could be part of the action - but makes it damnably hard to world build more widely. :(
     
    Oct 10, 2017
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