First of all, Happy Book Birthday, Nicky! 🙂
Isn’t that cover absolutely kickass? The first time I saw it I cheered – I was one of the lucky few who got to read the book a good while ago, and the cover was ad remains (in my opinion) perfectly suited to the tale. So, you’ve got the cool mech holding a cool umbrella over a mischievously smiling little girl; you’ve got the captivating title (which does seem at odds with the cover, but isn’t; trust me on this), and you know that Nicky’s publisher, Harper Voyager, publishes some of the very best SF and speculative fiction available.
(By the by, the artwork for the cover was created by Brenoch Adams, and was designed by Owen Corrigan)
So, what did I discover in the book?
What grabbed my attention from the beginning was how well Nicky handled the balance between excellent characterization and inventive world building. Character-wise, you’re going to meet wildly different folks, from wildly different backgrounds, all exuberantly-chillingly-sympathetically written, all having their own unique ‘voice’ and their own very important place in the tale. You’ll meet a teenager on the cusp of what will probably seem to you to be an incredibly weird manhood ritual, a nail technician working in a beauty parlour with a dangerous and awesome secret, a little girl living in a township, a councilman forced to play two roles and really only enjoying one, a pop star on the verge of a breakdown, and a couple of nifty personal robots. These are the main players, and some of their connections won’t be immediately apparent, while others are connected by a very strange drug. What they do, and how they interact, is the meat of the story (as it should be), and Nicky brings them all to vivid life.
In terms of world building, I discovered a South Africa (or Azania, which could actually be damned cool, should that realize; but has no bearing on the novel) which easily overshadows the South Africa Lauren Beukes revealed in Moxyland. In Nicky’s SA, for example, you’ve got personal-assistant robots and genetically engineered and extremely cute pests – you’ll have to discover the rest. The SA of Nicky’s imagination has moved past all the trouble we’re currently having and, though not perfect, is suffused with hope and a still vulnerable trust; the cyberpunk aspects of this book are bright and beautiful and crazy and exciting, though that keen edge of danger and darkness can be sensed glinting between the details. But there are also aspects of Fantasy to this read, and those aspects have an abiding mythic feel, as if we’ve been given a glimpse of a world of gods and motivations we hadn’t even guessed could exist.
But there aren’t only wonderfully captivating characters and excellent world building in this book – there’s heart, humor, empathy, beauty and ugliness, too. And the action scenes are almost Manga-esque in the crazy-cool epicness. That robot and that little girl? You won’t believe what they’re capable of – and I mean ‘won’t believe’ in terms of, “Oh, wow. Oh WOW.”
All in all, Nicky has created not only a world I would love to read an entire saga in, but characters who feel both known and excitingly unique – if this book doesn’t completely capture you and leave you feeling a combination of excitement and utter exhaustion, then you really should dig up a mad scientist and get him to bring you back to life. At the very least, I’m pretty confident that you’ll agree with me that it’s a cool, wild, awesome ride.
‘The Prey of Gods’ was absolutely brilliant. Read it!
The book should be available almost everywhere right now (except perhaps the Moon; but Musk’s working on giving us an option to get it there), but here are the links you might need:
And do check out Nicky’s site, too. 🙂
Until next time,