Monday, 21 January 2008
‘The Fade’ – Chris Wooding (Gollancz Books)
At the back end of last year, Adam gave this a glowing review over at The Wertzone. I’m a big fan of what Adam has to say so when I was looking for something to spend my Christmas book token on, ‘The Fade’ stood out immediately as a book to try. I finished it over the weekend and while it’s certainly an enjoyable book (with lots to recommend it) I did have a couple of issues with it…
‘The Fade’ is set in the subterranean caverns of a planet too scorched by it’s twin suns for anyone, other than the most hardy of settlers, to risk living on the surface. There is war in these caverns (there has been for hundreds of years) and there are those who would prefer that it remains this way indefinitely. Orna is a cadre member (elite assassin) who has been captured by the enemy as the result of a failed attack that also led to the death of her husband. Her main goal, in escaping, is to be reunited with her son but as the story goes on Orna finds that her needs dovetail far too easily with the machinations of others. There’s a lot at stake here and Orna will find that the success (or failure) of others will depend on what she does next…
I found myself gripped by both the story and the underlying concept of the world in which this was all happening. ‘The Fade’ is only just over three hundred pages long and a lot happens in a very short space of time. The fights are short and brutal while Orna’s motivations for escaping were enough to keep me reading to find out if she succeeded. On top of this there was a hefty dose of intrigue, which added a new level of interest and made me want to finish the book (even more) just so I could work out what was going on. The ending was a real shock, especially when you realise that the pieces were falling into place the whole time and you never noticed them.
However, I felt that the shortness of the book worked against it in that there was only room to tell the story and some of the things that I wanted to know about got left out. For such an interesting setting I felt that I never got to find out more about it because there just wasn’t enough space. This was also partly down to the use of ‘first person point of view’ where it felt like Orna knew what her surroundings were like and didn’t feel the need to elaborate further. What made this more annoying was the fact that whole chapters were dedicated to Orna’s past and this could have been done in short passages here and there.
It’s not often that I say this but although ‘The Fade’ annoyed me on a certain level I really hope that this is the start of a series just so I can experience the setting and atmosphere a little more. Wooding does write a tight and well-crafted tale as well so it will be interesting to see what he comes up with next.
Seven and Three Quarters out of Ten