Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Isolated City Worlds:Storm Thief, by Chris Wooding. (London: Scholastic, 2006)

Rail and Moa are ghetto urchins thieving a living when Rail holds onto a find that that the Thief mistress wants. He and Moa run, and find out that the technology will let them through doors. On the way to sanctuary they pick up Vago, a golem/android who has escaped from a master he ended up with after a Probability Storm.

Rail and Moa live on/in Orokos, a city island in the middle of the sea. Orokos is the only place in the world where there are humans, but it's a hell hole in which the wealthy live in the city and the poor are crowded into walled ghettos. Every so often a probability storm sweeps by and changes things, sometimes inoccuously sometimes in ways that reminded me of Sean Williams Galveston. In the meantimes the Revenants sweep through, fatal aether ghosts that the Protectorate attempt to keep confined. The Taken (humans ridden by the Revenants) are fatal to the touch.

As Rail and Moa run they take us through this world and into an underworld where gehtto dwellers seek to build ships to find out if there is land over the horizon. When they are captured they are forced into helping the Protectorate break into an old Fade technology building to turn iff the central computer. Once there they are greeted by an Obi-wan figure (named Ben) who tells them that the city was a walled utopia in which humans went stale. All that they live with was deliberately designed to make humans active once more. Man cannot cope with utopia, da dah da dah....

They break the computer., the golem rescues them and they arrive at the walls in time to join the fleet of ghetto people. Vago ends up at the bottom of the sea but the children survive.

This ought to be a good book. Chris Wooding writes well, and there is plenty of pace and adventure. Rail, a boy who must use a breathing mask since his lungs were paralysed by a Probability Storm, is well conceived. But as I've sort of hinted at, there are too many places where this book feels familiar.

The city feels like the walled city in Julie Bertagna's Exodus. Rail and Moa feel like Reeve's Tom and Hester, and Vago is far too much like Reeve's Shrike. The ending is too close to the ending of Mortal Engines.

So, a good book, but...


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