Monday, 30 April 2012

‘Blood Ocean’ – Weston Ochse (Abaddon Books)

Abaddon Books have developed a rather nice line in shared universes filled up with writers telling their own stories. It’s an approach that works particularly well for me as if I find myself falling behind with one series, in a setting, then there will always be another series coming along that I can jump straight into.
Take the ‘Afterblight Chronicles’ for example. I’m actually not doing too badly with the series overall but have found myself lagging behind with Paul Kane’s ‘Robin Hood’ trilogy, a crying shame as it’s proved to be a series well worth the read. At the risk of repeating myself, there’s only so much time in the day to read. I’ll catch up eventually (just need to read ‘Arrowland’) but that doesn’t mean I have to miss out on the ‘post cull’ setting in the meantime, not when writers like Weston Ochse are on hand to add to it.
Weston Ochse will be a familiar name to fans of Abaddon’s ‘Tomes of the Dead’ series with his book ‘Empire of Salt’ apparently being very well received. I say ‘apparently’ as I never got to read it myself. I was still intrigued though and that bumped ‘Blood Ocean’ up the pile a little further.
It was a bit of a shame then that ‘Blood Ocean’ turned out to be a disappointing read…

Kavika Kamalani is a Pali Boy, member of an ancient Hawaiian warrior tradition that has survived the plague and now makes its way in a post apocalyptic landscape. A Pali Boy overcomes death by embracing his fears and living large; if Kavika and his friends are to survive then that is exactly what he must do.
Kavika lives on a floating city where life is harsh at the best of time but when a friend of Kavika’s dies (harvested for his blood) the quest to find his killer makes things harsher still. There is a hidden agenda at work to make sure that life in the city stays exactly as it is and Kavika is about to bring it all crashing down but not before he undergoes a horrifying transformation…

It’s a really obvious thing to say but you can tell how well a book works, for you, by how much of it you want to read in a single sitting. For example, Ian Tregillis’ ‘Bitter Seeds’ was a book where I would read huge chunks of it and only stop when I absolutely had to.
‘Blood Ocean’ though was a book that took me a good couple of weeks to read through the first three quarters of the book. When you take into account that ‘Blood Ocean’ is only two hundred and eighty six pages long, in total, that’s really saying something. The last quarter was finished off a lot quicker but by then the damage had already been done.

The big issue that I had with the book was that a large chunk of it appeared to be all about scene setting. That’s not so bad in itself, you’ve got to have a little scene setting, but if it’s taken too far then it can be overpowering to say the least.
‘Blood Ocean’s’ scene setting (and character building come to think of it) was not only overpowering but didn’t seem to have anything to do with the story itself (when the plot was finally allowed to surface and do its thing). It felt more like Ochse was giving us a guided tour of the floating city in order to show us that he’d covered all the bases in terms of setting up a post-apocalyptic setting. Look, there are the cannibals! And look, I’ve got water dwelling scavengers as well! It all felt atmospheric enough but also detached from the plot at the same time. Not that there was a lot of room for the plot with this approach. Kavika was on a mission but it kept stopping in order to take in some new detail of his surroundings. So that was the flow of the book obstructed as well then… You could make an argument that elements of the plot are revealed gradually so as to keep an air of mystery. I’d say that if this was the case then Ochse needed to be a little more on the ball instead of getting lost in his surroundings… The overall picture is revealed but it’s torturous waiting for it to happen.

When things finally do start to happen, Ochse shows us what he is really capable of with Kavika’s transformation making for some very uncomfortable reading (in just the right kind of way). Don’t get too involved though as Ochse brings things to a halt again, having his cast discuss whether anything should be happening at all… It turns out that this is a deliberate ploy, aimed at pushing a central character into making changes. This works in terms of pushing the plot to a final climax but is a little too similar to Ochse’s ‘scene setting’ approach to be really effective.

The final scenes do go a long way towards making up for the interminable slowness of the preceding chapters but it felt like ‘too little too late’ for me. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the closing sequences though, a mixture of all out action set against a post-apocalyptic backdrop with intriguing hints of a wider world. These moments actually had a bearing on the direction of the plot as well which was a welcome development. If Ochse’s other work has more moments like this then I’d be more than happy to check them out but I’m a little dubious having read ‘Blood Ocean’. Has anyone else read anything else by Weston Ochse?

‘Blood Ocean’ is full of atmosphere and you’re left with a really clear picture of where you are in the setting. It’s just a shame then that you have to really fight past that if you want to find out what’s actually happening…

Six and a Half out of Ten

1 comment:

SusieBookworm (Susanna) said...

The plot synopsis of this sounds so interesting...it's a shame that most of the book isn't very enjoyable.