Excerpt from the review: The main premise (catch) behind the story of "Old Man's War" is -- as the title already implies -- how to make old people useful again for the society. The story is told through the eyes of John Perry, a 75 year old geezer, who enlists into Colonial Defense Forces for the same reason as many of the 75 year olds do - the prospect of getting young again. The fear of dying is stronger than all the moral and religious objections that one might have had towards army servitude and all that goes with it when young and full of ideals. We then follow his journey towards the training facility, the whole process of "rejuvenation" and all the consequences this corporeal change brings to a couple of thousand people with very alienated relationship towards their bodies; forming of new friendships (the clique of "Old Farts", as they name themselves) and finally John's participation in intergalactic war where the race of men battles myriad of diverse and rapacious alien races for the right of colonization and expansion. What makes all this work on a whole another level is John's personality and his view on events as the they unfold. He is a thoughtful and very likable protagonist with a great sense of humor (subtle and witty, not the all over the place hilarious).(less)
Stopmouth is a young and resourceful hunter of the tribe of men. It is a harsh and competitive world where a wide variety of lethal and highly intelligent beast-like creatures abide. Since there seems to be no traditional sources of food, the law of survival culls down to the essentials – Eat or Be Eaten. But Stopmouth soon realizes that the source of the threat is not necessarily limited to the outside world and when one of the mysterious Globes that traverse the Roof (sky) happens to crash into the Tribe's Centre Square, and an exotic woman rises from the wreckage, a new opportunity and a yet untrodden destiny open up for our young hunter...
The Inferior is a debut effort by an Irishman Peadar Ó Guilin. The novel is a beginning of the sf/fantasy trilogy that is marketed under a young-adult tag; and while one might question the wisdom of this marketing decision, since one of the main issues addressed by this novel touches upon our (moral) right to consume flesh -- especially if it comes from hunting intelligent and self-aware species that are akin to human beings in many ways -- but despite the fact that it does so in a pretty straightforward manner, the author employs a 'user-friendly' and inoffensive style that eschews overtly explicit descriptions of violence, sex and other questionable contents with relative ease. But don't get me wrong, if Ó Guilín chose not to do gritty, that doesn't mean that he pampers his readers – he raises a few important questions and while he doesn't serve us the answers on a silver platter, he still implores his readers to think about them on their own time without bogging the narrative with excessive introspection.
The prose is pretty straightforward, which is most evident from the names that the author chose for his characters (Stopmouth, Rockface, Mossheart, Wallbreaker), the beasts (Flyers, Diggers, Hoppers, Armourbacks) and the natural phenomena (Manways, Wetlanes, the Roof, Globes). The names of the beasts and their primordial physique resonate with a palpable pulpish feel which I really liked. The first impression of the world I got was that it's very small, crammed, artificial and that its shaping preceded its current inhabitants – as it turned out, I wasn't far off the mark, and it was quite intentional on the author's part. The portrayal of the tribal society was simplistic and a bit too naive with regard to certain facets, but it was nevertheless effective and very vivid.
The world-building occurs through the events and the dialogue – Ó Guilin really succeeds to bring the world to life with 'minimal' efforts. The nature of the author's approach is such that he never lingers indefinitely on feelings and thoughts of the characters – they tend to show rather than tell. The characterization might feel a bit rough around the edges at times and somewhat lacking in finer nuances, but it still manages to impress, regardless of its relative simplicity. I believe that the author's charisma shines most brightly through the characters such as Stopmouth (obviously!), Indrani and Rockface. This is a perfectly decent survival story - brimming with optimism, courage and wonder, and balanced by the right amount of the romantic and the mysterious.
Another thing that is going really strong for The Inferior is the (clandestine) inclusion of the sf elements (Globes in the sky, 'Talker' - alien object that allows communication between the incompatible races of beasts and men, etc.), while it still manages to be read as a straightforward fantasy story. Without giving too much away, I concur with the blurb on the cover that familiarizes some of the ideas from this book with those from the movie The Truman Show.
Peadar Ó Guilín has a knack for making likable characters. Stopmouth is presented as an intelligent, brave and thoughtful, if a bit naive young man. The portrayal of relationships that Stopmouth cultivates with his brother, with »the woman that has fallen from the sky« and with Rockface, presents the biggest strength of the novel - along with the characterization per se. I especially enjoyed Stopmouth’s ambivalent and precarious friendship with his brother Wallbreaker. The gradual blossoming of feelings between Indrani and Stopmouth was done with great care and tact, as was the seemingly incompatible friendship between the cautious Stopmouth and the reckless Rockface that evolved into something deeper along the way. The way how Wallbreaker was portrayed as an ambivalent person really intrigued me and I couldn't decide if he was either good or bad. While I felt that not all of the changes of Wallbreaker's personality were sufficiently explained and some of the choices he made were a bit extreme as well, but I would still love to see him as a POV (maybe in one of the sequels?). I also regretted the fact that he makes the last appearance somewhere around the middle of the novel – that is one of the reasons why the book lost some of its appeal for me in the second half despite the fact that it loses none of its steam. The concluding chapters felt a bit rushed in my opinion - I would have preferred, if the author had chosen to slow down the action for a while, so he would have had more room for character development and world-building.
There are also some other minor discrepancies and loose plot threads: (1)Why is the extinction of the Hairbeasts not followed by repopulation with another beast-race? (2)Why are the Diggers so omnipotent in relation to other races? (3)The author goes explaining at length how impossible the communication between various beast-folk (including humanity) is, due to the fact that they have completely incompatible minds; but the inhabitants of this makeshift world still somehow succeed in forming alliances. But all this 'problems' don't detract from the reading experience and, besides, I hold high hopes that all the loose-ends will be tied up neatly in the forthcoming sequels. There is also some hinting at a strife between the spiritual and the atheist fraction (that goes on behind the screens) of which we will surely hear more later on.
As a YA title I would 'judge' this novel as a highly entertaining read that even manages to make you question humanity's complacency with killing other conscious beings and eating their meat; but I have to admit that I missed a bit of political incorrectness and/or outright subversive elements – the wholesome impression I got was a bit mellow, but we can’t have it all, or can we?
Regardless of the gripes I had with The Inferior it is still a fabulous read and I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel. I know that what I’m about to say is stretching it a bit, but I really found some general similarities between The Inferior and the works of Paul Kearney or even David Gemmell. You can figure out how highly I value Peadar Ó Guilín’s debut effort by this comparison alone.
On par with the first book in "Culture" series. A similar disinterested and disinteresting protagonist. Interesting concept for a story and well execu...moreOn par with the first book in "Culture" series. A similar disinterested and disinteresting protagonist. Interesting concept for a story and well executed with occasional boring sections (wich is weird, considering the page count is not long by today's standards).