Monday, 19 November 2007
‘The Inferior’ – Peadar O Guilin (David Fickling Books)
I’d heard nothing but good things about Peadar O Guilin’s ‘The Inferior’ so when I was offered the chance to review it I was looking forward to settling down for a good read. I started it on the train to work and began with the blurb on the inside cover. You can imagine my reaction when the last paragraph of the blurb pretty much gave away the point of the whole story… I read it again just to be certain of what I’d seen, it was still there. Despite this, I figured that I’d give the book a go anyway. I’m really glad I did this, ‘The Inferior’ is a captivating book that I only reluctantly surfaced from to do things like work, eat and talk to my wife.
Stopmouth’s tribe ekes out a day to day existence, hunting rival species for their meat or bartering the weakest of their own kind when stocks in the larder are running low. As someone with a speech impediment, Stopmouth is seen as weak and expected to ‘volunteer’ for the flesh trade sooner rather than later (especially as his brother has a nasty habit of stealing his thunder). This changes though when a strange woman falls from the sky, an event that will affect not only Stopmouth but also his entire world.
‘The Inferior’ is a book where there is always something happening and this steady chain of events hooked me until long after I’d actually finished reading. There’s no lull at all but because everything ties in neatly together it never seemed like overkill and I just wanted to keep reading. ‘Survival of the fittest’ is taken to an entirely new level and if you’re picking this book up be prepared to see people doing whatever it takes to make it. Fair play to O Guilin for not ducking away from spelling out what this involves. The only (small) issue that I had with this was that sometimes I wasn’t sure whether I was reading a ‘Young Adult’ novel (which this is billed as) or something more adult. I haven’t got a problem with either of these, it’s just nice sometimes to know what I’m reading.
‘The Inferior’ is a book about cannibalism and this is dealt with in a manner both graphic yet strangely matter of fact at the same time. It’s not glossed over but neither is it over-dramatised, I think O Guilin gets the balance spot on here and manages to steer this theme nicely into cultural and religious avenues that are pivotal to the whole book.
For the tribe that spends its days fighting for survival Stopmouth’s people are a lot more than just savages. They are all well drawn and fleshed out (no pun intended) who function well as a tribe and are not above politicking to ensure that they get their way, an absorbing study all by itself.
I really enjoyed ‘The Inferior’ and would recommend it to anyone who’s thinking about picking up a science fiction book for the first time. While it is a ‘young adult’ book there is enough there for an older reader to enjoy the read without feeling too guilty! The only thing I would say is that if you do pick this up then don’t read the blurb before you’ve read the book itself…
Eight and a Half out of Ten