(2020) M. R. Carey, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, 447pp, ISBN 978-0-356-51349-2
From the author of The Girl with all the Gifts comes another post-apocalyptic thriller. Here, humanity faces attack from nature with species on the attack. Koli is a boy who is afraid of trees. After the world broke down, plants and animals were dying, so people made them stronger. Now everyone is afraid of them. Koli is also afraid of Shunned Men, the outcasts outside the village walls. And heís afraid to tell the girl he likes how he feels. But if Koli can become a Rampart, if he can wake the technology of the old world, he knows he wonít have to be afraid of anything again. Heís wrong.
This is the first book of Mike Careyís 'Rampart' trilogy with book 2, The Trials of Koli, and book 3, the gloomy-sounding, The Fall of Koli, due to be published this year. The series is set in the future where wars and climate change have taken their toll and what is left of mankind struggles to survive in a world where trees and plants have been genetically modified in the past to help save the planet, and are now the dominant species, hunting mankind, but there are enemies closer to hand as teenager Koli Woodsmith finds out. He lives in Mythen Rood, a little village in Ingland overseen by the Ramparts, who are all from the same family that have access to old technology which helps them to maintain their position and keep the villagers in check. When Koli becomes 15 he must undertake the Waiting and decide what he is going to do with his life. He decides to take the Rampart test and has to reawaken some old technology, but he fails and, in his frustration, steals some tech housing an AI which leads him to be banished by the Ramparts who see him as a threat and he is exiled to the dangerous world beyond the village.
The Book of Koli is a book of two halves, told from the viewpoint of Koli in his own distinctive language which is similar to ours so isnít too difficult to understand after the first few pages. The first half of the book is almost safe and cosy, because this is about Koli within the village and while there are revelations and frustrations, Koli is inside the confined world that he knows. The second half takes him outside the village into a new, and far more deadlier world as he has to use his wits to survive the deadly environment around him, which also includes other people who are worse than the Ramparts, and every bit as bad as the whispers and rumours led him to believe, but he has the AI called Monono with him to help, and also the reluctant help of an old doctor determined to try and solve the birth-rate problem. Koli is going to need all the help he can get as Carey ramps up the action, and the tension, and events slip into the dark side.
The Book of Koli is thought-provoking and highly entertaining with a lead character that the reader gets to care about and a sidekick AI that is a wonderful creation. I look forward reading the rest of the series, if the trees donít get me first.
See also Arthur's take on The Book of Koli.
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