I thank the publishers for an advance copy of this novella in exchange for a fair and honest review
Publisher – The Book Smugglers
Published – Out Now
Price - £3.80 eBook
Jennery is floating on xyr back when Ocean speaks for the first time. Just three days away from freedom, all Jennery has ever wanted to do was become a musician – because if you reach sixteen and Ocean hasn’t spoken to you once, then you can pursue a different life instead of becoming a Communicator.
But Ocean speaks to Jennery – only to Jennery. And Ocean is angry. And when Ocean is angry, bad things happen to the humans who have colonised Ocean’s world. Jennery must choose whether to listen or to swim away
When you reach a certain age as a teenager you can feel the weight of the world on you but sixteen-year-old Jennery finds xyr life complicated when just when xe think xe may have escaped having to have a sacred duty in their society xe find the planet has a different view on things. Jennery must learn to grow up fast and xyr preconceptions about adults and the way the world works is about to be seriously challenged. This sets up a great fast paced science fiction novella with some themes applicable to our own world well worth reminding ourselves about.
Jennery lives on Endeavour a floating human colony on a water-filled world known only as Ocean. There is no land here and our Earth is past the point of no return due to environmental collapse. The colonists decided to make do over a hundred years ago and have slowly created a way of life and now started to create other colonies. But the water here can burn your skin; one Colony has mysteriously been destroyed. Early on the Colonists eventually realised that the entire ecosystem of the planet is sentient (but alien). Early into settlement the consciousness (named Ocean) gains the ability to talk to a few humans xe realise the planet is actually alive and agree to live alongside each other but apart. No fishing, no bathing but allowed to co-exist. But Jennery going through the standard test to see if xe are a Communicator (very reluctantly) on xer last day gets a message from Ocean. Someone has started to fish, and Ocean is NOT happy.
Juliet Kemp has a great ability to tell a story like this quickly and organically. It’s a very alien set-up but as a reader I never felt I was getting infodumps. Instead through Jennery’s voice I gradually understood the way of life on Ocean and the reasons it’s develop that way through a teen’s view and both reader and lead are trying to work out what is going on. It’s a progressive society not focused on race nor gender but you can still have social issues to address. It is a science fiction mystery where something as simple as fishing has life threatening consequences for the colonists. Finding out what is going on is going to mean Jennery accepting responsibility and leaving the safe walls of xer home and braving Oceans waters.
What I particularly liked about this is that it’s not a story of good and bad characters. Everyone is complicated – even Ocean. Rather than villains we have competing points of view (trademark Obi-wan Kenobi). Life on Ocean because of the limitations in place is hard – why does it have to be? Jennery is a reluctant hero and would much prefer hanging around with xer friends and learning to be a musician but lives are at risk…Jennery also realises those in positions of power are not always going to be logical and sometimes you then really need to take a stand to persuade them. The story beautifully combines how it’s important for people to listen to one another rather than just lecture and that humans don’t half tend to see themselves as separate to the planet
This is a great novella that I think conjures up a unique world and situation that at the same time gives the reader a situation that they can easily apply to our own world. It’s refreshingly less about conflict and more about resolution and I think fans of such SF stories will really enjoy this a lot. I will look out for more of Kemp’s work in the future!