So recently, Ian Sainsbury and I were chatting about the new projects we were both working on. Mine being a new time travel story, and Ian’s being this one, Children of the Deterrent.
Writers are funny creatures and we don’t really like to give out much information on the job-in-hand for all sorts of reasons – (it can invoke a debate which can influence the creative process / most book outlines sound crap when you tell someone else / someone might steal your ideas cos you know, it’s gonna be the next Harry Potter / Dan Brown / Big Bumper Book of Special Words).
Anywho, so we nattered and agreed, when our projects were complete, to share them for a pre-read. Which seemed a grand idea at the time but when it actually came to it, I fretted a bit, and I’m pretty sure Ian did too.
You see, Ian is a bloody good writer, which means this whole sharing thing was fraught with peril. I’d agreed to send my new unpolished, unedited book to a best-selling author to see what he thinks. And in turn, Ian was sending his work to me to see what he thinks.
Aargh! That’s like a double, triple, quadruple whammy of peril that is.
For a start, it means my work is being judged by someone of a very high standard, but it also means I’ve got to read Ian’s new book and give honest feedback…and what if I don’t like it??? What if he doesn’t like mine???
Holy moly Batman. What crazy deal did we make here? Suddenly the whole hey let’s share our projects idea was a bloomin’ awful suggestion. Why did Ian say it? (I said it really).
I’ve read it now, Children of the Deterrent that is and um… it’s good. It’s really good. Oh my days it’s good.
From the opening page, I was seriously gripped. In fact, for the first time in years, I put my own work aside and pushed my deadlines back a bit to make time to read it. I even did that reader thing of going to bed early, just so I could get stuck back into it.
The concept is fantastic, but more than that, it’s layered, thought-out, developed and thought-provoking, and what I love, what I really love, is that in each situation where the writer could so easily go stereotypical, Ian doesn’t. He is able to identify those points and resist and in turn that keeps the story alive and just bloody brilliant.
The key to a sci-fi book of any genre is to make it feel real, as in – if this happened, it would be like this – and that’s exactly what Ian has achieved here. High-concept but grounded and earthy with realism and the jarring hopelessness of humanity with all our greed and wrongfulness, but the hope is there too. The trust that the good people of the world still outnumber the bad because often times, that’s all we have.
It’s different too. Deliciously different. The POV is from characters you wouldn’t expect but seamlessly done and they were absolutely the right characters used to tell the story. That’s the magic of good writing – telling the story from the right character. Who sees it, who has the reactions to the events and who tells the reader what’s going on?
First person story-telling has limitations too. You can only ever really see through that character’s eyes, but if done properly, that’s all you need. That character can tell us what others are feeling and thinking and how they are reacting, and Ian has done that here, deftly so.
The story also takes us through different eras of British life, from the late sixties through to modern times, and with each toe dipped into those periods of time, so Ian captures them with subtle references and the use of backdrop narrative. It’s remarkable and it gives you that thing that all readers long for by immersing you in a world other than your own.
I so want to talk about the plot in depth here and discuss the characters and scope and goings on, but I won’t. The very best thing you can do is go into this book with as little prior knowledge as possible and get the same buzz as I did and be taken by the hand, by a damn fine story-teller, and be led through an adventure that will leave you a little bit quiet for a day or two. You know, that quiet that comes from a rollicking good tale.
By far, this is the best book I have read this year.
Children of the Deterrent is out on 15th December.