Tuesday, 23 June 2009

‘Retribution Falls’ – Chris Wooding (Gollancz)


If you’re anything like me then sometimes all it takes is some gorgeous cover art to make you want to pick up a book and give it a go. ‘Retribution Falls’ is one of the books. Have a look at that cover; don’t you think it’s great? Anyway… It wasn’t just the cover that had me interested though; a blurb crammed full of pirates, airships and bounty hunters was just what I was looking for in my next read. I’ve never seen an episode of ‘Firefly’ (I know, I’ll be surrendering my geek card very soon…) but I do like the concept and seeing that other reviewers have noted the similarity with ‘Retribution Falls’, albeit with differing opinions, was the final thing I needed to get me going…

Darian Frey is the captain of the ‘Ketty Jay’ and makes his living through smuggling and other acts of piracy, constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the Coalition Navy. Frey is after an easy life and it doesn’t come much easier than a simple raid on a cargo freighter, all Frey has to do is bring back the diamonds and he is set up for life. He should have listened to those nagging doubts though; before he knows it Frey has been framed and him and his crew is on the run from Navy forces and hired bounty hunters. Who framed him and why? Frey is going to have use all the tricks of his dubious trade to stay alive long enough to find out…

‘Retribution Falls’ isn’t a perfect read but it is one that I had a lot of fun with. From the very opening page I was thrust (literally at gunpoint) into a seedy world of smugglers and pirates where the life of a crewman is cheap but an airship is irreplaceable. It’s also a world where magic and science co-exist, albeit uneasily. The ‘Ketty Jay’s’ latest passenger hasn’t let on all there is to know about the golem that he keeps in the hold… Confrontations simmer with tension and there’s crackling dialogue to match, I really enjoyed these moments!


While Wooding provides us with a seamy underworld setting, that has an air of magic about it, he doesn’t give us much else outside that. This is ok when the reader is taken to see an information broker, or views a stand off between rogues, but I found myself wanting to know more about the world of the ‘Ketty Jay’ and this kind of information wasn’t forthcoming. To be fair, there is a sequel in the works (due out next year), where questions may well be answered, but that didn’t stop me wanting my worldbuilding fix right now! Wooding is a victim of his own success here as he doesn’t match the brilliance (in my opinion) of his ‘underworld scenes’ over the course of the whole book…

‘Retribution Falls’ is very much a ‘pulp style’ affair with plenty of gunfights, stand-offs and daring feats to keep the reader occupied. It also has characters well drawn enough to make me want to find out if the bullet at the end of one chapter had their name on it at the beginning of the next. I love a good ‘pulp read’ but the problem with books of this nature is that if you’ve read one then you’ve probably read them all. There’s a certain ebb and flow to pulp fiction that means you can sometimes tell when the cliff-hangers are going to happen and this robs the book of it’s surprises. The plot is also not as ‘twisty turny’ as it would have you believe, it’s very much a linear ‘we’ve found what we need at point A so lets head on to point B’ deal. This is balanced out by the fast pace (and action packed confrontations) but can get very repetitive if you’re after something a little more involved.

I may have had a few issues with ‘Retribution Falls’ but that didn’t stop it from being a thoroughly enjoyable read that I’d recommend to anyone who’s after a does of rip roaring adventure. There’s enough here for me to want to pick up the next book and see what Wooding has in store for us.

Eight and a Quarter out of Ten

6 comments:

ediFanoB said...

I don't tend to pick up books without reading a blurb or more. But in this case I fell in love with the cover art. I read Adam's review and now I read your review.
To be honest both reviews are great. I'm convinced I will like it.

Did you read the The Logbook of the Ketty Jay?

And there is a Retribution Falls excerpt available for download.

RedEyedGhost said...

Good review Graeme!

Is this the first book you've read by Wooding?

Graeme Flory said...

RedEyedGhost - I've got a review of Chris Wooding's 'The Fade' on here somewhere but didn't have the time to find the link. I enjoyed 'Retribution Falls' a lot more :o) I've also got 'Malice' waiting to be read but that's more of a YA thing...

ed - I read bits of the logbook and should really get round to putting the link on the main page! If you liked the logbook then I reckon you'll like this too :o)

Kat @ FanLit said...

I agree with you guys about the cover -- I noticed it immediately -- gorgeous.

I haven't read any of Chris Wooding's work, but a couple of our reviewers at FanLit are fans.

Anonymous said...

Hadn't thought much of Wooding's earlier books but this one is damned good fun.

The Firefly influence, obvious as it seems, is a little overstated, I think.

Retribution Falls fuses Firefly, Final Fantasy X, and Pirates of the Carribean along with a sprinkling of Full-Metal-Alchemist and Blakes' 7. A recipe that could have produced something awful, but the result here is thoroughly enjoyable.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. I meant Final Fantasy IX of course.

(That'll teach me to post before finishing my coffee.)