On being an opinionated toss-bag

osirisDuring my review of Kasia James’s ‘Artemis Effect’ I touched on how blogging has altered my perspective on reviewing. When I was merely a faceless Amazonian (or something) it was much easier to flame a book I didn’t like. For a start I’d paid for it, so I had purchased to right to vent my ire. When I joined the Amazon Vine programme, books were sent to me for free, but it was still impersonal. I could still be rude about a book I didn’t enjoy.

Since blogging, it’s become a bit murky. I know bloggers usually write ‘in exchange for a fair and honest review’ somewhere on the blog, but how easy is it? Maybe I’m just a spineless appeaser and fantasist, but once my book has been obtained through dialogue with an actual person, I feel like I’m a small part of the team, responsible for the success (or failure) of the book. Twitter doesn’t help. The authors are right there, being nice, talking about how hard they work, discussing the pain of a negative review. Talking about what a faceless opinionated toss bag the reviewer is.

So now when I write a negative review I now feel like an opinionated toss-bag. I’m not any more (or less) of one than I used to be, but I feel like I am. I search desperately for good things to say about a book. Can 2* become 3? 3*, 4? Is it better not to review at all? But is that fair and honest? It’s doubly bad when it’s a debut novel. One day, (a long way off) I would like to be a published writer, how would I feel if an opinionated toss bag said my hard-wrought novel was, obvious, overlong and tedious?

Which brings me to Osiris. An overlong and tedious novel, the central theme of which is so obvious it’s hardly worth mentioning. I wanted to like it. There are some great ideas and some beautiful writing, but there’s little story, and then what story there is, is overwritten by a two-page epilogue.

The setting is interesting. Near(ish) future, the Earth is submerged in water. Osiris is a super-city, consisting of gleaming interconnected skyscrapers. It contains the last inhabitants of earth. But Osiris is a city divided. A Berlin Wall like structure divides east and west. In the east live healthy super-rich oligarchs, in the west, the diseased, unwashed and generally desperate.

The novel fails mostly because it has little to say. Osiris is a gossamer thin metaphor for modern Britain (or the entire planet) with a fat spoiled ruling class, gradually turning the screw on a defenceless underclass. All done under the pretence of improving Osiris without any idea of the implications for its inhabitants. It’s potentially interesting, but it’s too simplistic. I’m not sure if calling the oppressed mass ‘westerners’ was a deliberate choice or an unfortunate oversight, but it gives you an idea of how obvious the author’s metaphors are.

The two main characters are from each side of the divide, and behave pretty much as you might expect. Vikram is a noble freedom fighter. Adelaide a spoiled drug-taking dilletente who takes Vikram under her wing in an attempt to annoy her family. Adelaide’s twin brother has gone missing, and she hopes to use Vikram in her bid to discover what happened to him. The inevitable physical relationship ensues.

I could probably keep finding fault with the novel. It does pick up towards the end, but being the first part in a trilogy, there is little resolution, and what resolution there is, is unpicked in the epilogue. It’s easy to imagine that book 2 could be read without reading the first instalment. Which is a good job, because its hard to conceive why anybody reading this book would want to read more. But then what do I know? I’m just an opinionated toss-bag.

Many Thanks to del Rey for sending me a review copy of this book. I should point out that so far nobody has called me anything rude in response to one of my reviews


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