Jonathan Ward, Caleuche, Fox Spirit Books, 2019.
Caleuche is a space opera thriller after a technological apocalypse occurs. It uses tropes and has some stereotypical elements, but it is a gripping read for a cosy evening in.
The planet Jericho has been attacked. Terrorists have hacked into the Bugs, robots which are used daily for many tasks, and the machines have over run the world. Some people have managed to escape. The last ship to leave is the Caleuche, with only five persons on board: Eddie, an engineer, Melissa, a teenager, Connor, a soldier, Joshua, a pilot, Walter, an older man, and Sophia, an employee. But it is highly improbable they'll all make it to safety.
The novel starts with a bang and with a violent murder that's extremely well written. So you end up being hooked very quickly. All through the novel, the pace remains sustained, with twists and turns, various dangerous situations and obstacles set in the path of the characters.
Nonetheless, Ward also accounts for the mental health toll that so many traumatic situations would cause, which is something I appreciated.
One of the things I was less keen on in Caleuche is how some of the characters are a bit stereotypical: Melissa is a self centred, whining teenager, with little else to define her. Walter is an older man who is drowning in nostalgia and sorrow. Sophia is a carer and not very good in a fight but she tries. In the end, I really had trouble caring about these characters because the stereotypical aspects felt a bit grating.
On the other hand, the character of Joshua is very well done, and Ward often succeeds in giving him nuance and a scale of values subtly changing through the novel.
It's difficult to read the story without muttering a couple of times "Resistance is futile" in case you're a trekkie. Nonetheless, because the Bugs apocalypse has a human cause, it makes for an interesting twist in the classic tale of "Machines gone on a rampage."
The name of the ship, Caleuche, is the name given to a ghost ship in Chilote mythology. The novel creates a very interesting technological rewriting of that tale.
Caleuche is a gripping read from start to finish because, despite some stereotypes in characterisation and the use of scifi tropes, it is a very well told story. I highly recommend it if you're looking for an entertaining and thrilling read set in space.
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All reviews are spoiler free unless explicitly stated otherwise.
I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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