Ruin’s Wake by Patrick Edwards

Gosh, idk why that took forever to read. I think my brain finally needed a break from the speed with which I’ve been reading lately, and took it out on this novel, which is a quite good dystopian sci-fi jam-packed with ideas that extrapolate quite beautifully from our present-day tech and, to a certain extent, politics, to present us with a nightmarish future that’s equal parts Stalinist Russia and turn of the 21st century North Korea.

The action takes place, for the most part, within the Hegemony, a nation-state that’s vaguely European but, according to its politicians, spans the known Earth. My brain actually kept stumbling over this sense of place because of my predilection for mapping fictional locales to known areas, and with the chalk cliffs and the relative proximity to permafrost, even after climate change leads to environmental disaster, I kept thinking Europe, close to Britain. Anyway! Three different people are drawn together to, essentially, work for the rebellion: a disillusioned former soldier looking for his son, an abused wife desperate to preserve the illicit love that is one of her only joys, and the imperious researcher who stumbles across technology she’d never dreamed of. There’s action and romance and betrayals — lots of really good, fun stuff, and some really sweet sci-fi tech. But I felt like the pacing could have used more work and that, overall, the book could have used more details when it came to the personal lives of both Kelbee and Sulara. It’s hard for me to see how Kelbee’s cowed housewife could turn so easily into a confident, purposeful woman. I also felt that the transition of the hilarious (if somewhat hateful) Sulara of her journals to the accommodating resistance ally was a bit too abrupt. There wasn’t enough depth to how these women grew through the novel. My personal favorite character was the netick-ally enhanced Syn. Every time he showed up on the page, there was a little more verve to the narrative, and I could have honestly used more of him.

Frankly, and this is something I don’t say every often, I could have used more writing. While, on the one hand, I can definitely appreciate a stand-alone sci-fi novel, I also feel that Ruin’s Wake would have benefited from more detail, more characterization, more explanation as to the hows of the whys. Cale was written well, as was Syn in his capacity as a supporting character, so it isn’t too much of a stretch to think that Patrick Edwards could do the same for Kelbee and Sulara and even Derrin, whose messy motivations were far too tidily presented.

Overall, a fun debut that promises even better to come in the author’s future. This is one author I wouldn’t mind reading a multi-book series from, so long as it gives me more details to all these otherwise intriguing premises.

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