Fiction Reviews

Faraday's Orphans

(1996) Lee Wood, Vista, 5.99, pbk, 351pp. ISBN 0 575 60130 2


Faraday's Orphans deserves to be a modern SF classic, though I am aware of others on the Concatenation team who think differently, so you will have to make your own mind up! It has many things going for it. Good plot, solid characterization, excellent pacing and, apart from the plot's raison d'etre, good science (SF tales are all allowed one area of dodgy science). Indeed, if film producers were to monitor SF books then this would be one offering from 1996 that should be a hot contender for the silver screen.

The Earth has suffered a biosphere disaster due to a geo-magnetic reversal resulting in a the removal of the ozone layer and climatic extremes (which, of course, would not happen during a magnetic reversal). Anyway, given the premise that the Earth has no ozone layer and is suffering climatic extremes, the description of Lee's post-disaster World is believable. Civilization is reduced to living in domes or tunnels while outside the remnants of mankind -- in the main -- scratch a living.

The protagonist is a helicopter pilot from one of the (surviving) domes who monitors the wild ones oputside and spots resources left over from the pre-reversal days. All goes well with his life until he is attacked and left stranded in a ruined (but not deserted) city...

The novel's strengths are augmented by narratives that provide insights into what motivates the different groups of people in Lee's world, be they those in the dome (who are most like us), those in tunnels, nomads, city dwellers etc. The genetics is particularly fascinating.

It should be pointed out that the novel is gritty and not for people who just like 'nice' tales. Lee pulls no punches save for one set piece beneath the city when, as a writer she has a bit of self-indulgent fun. However by then most readers will probably welcome the break -- I certainly did.

Faraday's Orphans is one definitely worth checking out. Lee is certainly a rising star.

Jonathan Cowie

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