Author: Jonathan L. Howard
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Publication Date: November 6, 2012 (Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC/NetGalley Review Copy
Summary: The distant and unloved colony world of Russalka has no land, only the raging sea. No clear skies, only the endless storm clouds. Beneath the waves, the people live in pressurised environments and take what they need from the boundless ocean. It is a hard life, but it is theirs and they fought a war against Earth to protect it. But wars leave wounds that never quite heal, and secrets that never quite lie silent.
Katya Kuriakova doesn’t care much about ancient history like that, though. She is making her first submarine voyage as crew; the first nice, simple journey of what she expects to be a nice, simple career.
There is nothing nice and simple about the deep black waters of Russalka, however; soon she will encounter pirates and war criminals, see death and tragedy at first hand, and realise that her world’s future lies on the narrowest of knife edges. For in the crushing depths lies a sleeping monster, an abomination of unknown origin, and when it wakes, it will seek out and kill every single person on the planet.
☆: 3.5/5 stars – a great first book for those just getting into sci-fi!
Review: This one was kinda hard to suss out, guys, I’ll admit. I loved all of the action in “Katya’s World”, and I definitely am interested in the sequel, whenever it comes out, but it just didn’t feel entirely finished. Something was missing. Still, for those who are interested for just getting their feet wet in the genre pond for sci-fi, this is a great first novel to read.
For me, quite a bit of this book fell flat. Why? The voice was fine, but it fell into the pitfall that a lot of sci-fi genre novels do – technobabble. I don’t think I needed to know in detail how all the things worked on the subs and the ships and stuff, I feel like a great deal of that could have been cut without having the rest of the novel itself suffer in integrity. There’s also the issue of Katya herself – Howard uses 3rd close POV, so we’re a camera riding on Katya’s shoulder. And for all the Terran/Independence War might have hardened her and her generation, she sounded closer to 20 than she did to 15 (and it seems like a lot of other readers have noticed this, too).
Because I feel like this book was largely plot-driven (as opposed to character-driven), there’s also the pitfall of that sort of book – the characters suffer, and they suffer hard. In the area of development, specifically – when I read a book, I want to see how a character may (or may not) change over the span of the story. Usually this happens with the author giving the character a separate journey arc to the plot, where we see how the character develops over time. Unfortunately, in this book, we don’t get to see how Katya develops. From the start she’s a very sturdy, awesome female MC that kicks ass and takes names. And while I love it when authors create female MCs like that, I also want to see how they change. This wasn’t just with Katya, but with all of the characters of the main cast – yes, including antagonists and pirates.
However, what was really great was the worldbuilding and the tension – Howard definitely knows how to create a world, and knows how to do it well. His development of Russalka is very thorough, and detailed – we get the history of how humans came to the planet, as well as history of what’s known about the planet itself. The descriptions and sensory language were really detailed, and that was good, but without characters that really felt alive, there’s not much you can do with such great worldbuilding. Or rather, what you can do is extremely limited to the plot-driven genre of things.
The action was also great, tension on almost every single page, which, I will definitely credit to Howard, is very, very hard to do. This book is very engaging, and you’ll want to read about this fight between Terrans, Russalkins, and everyone in between until the very last page. The history of all the people in the book as a whole is really interesting and so detailed yet at the same time, very simply presented that it’s pretty easy to follow which event happened when and what caused what effect on each group of people. So I think that young YA will be able to follow this really easily, and will enjoy it.
But I just kind of wanted more. This is a great start, but I’m hoping for more details on the characters and how they grow – not just a page-turner – for book two. And I’m definitely interested in book two. But that’s just how I feel about it. Read it for yourself and come to your own conclusions. “Katya’s World” is out November 6, 2012 from Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry in North America, so be sure to check it out then!