4 ½ Stars for ‘Floodtide,’ by Helen Claire Gould
With so many novels presented as pure Science Fiction venturing frivolously, often flagrantly into the world of fantasy, and a vast assortment of Fantasy tales employing Science Fiction plot devices, here’s a story which weaves a precise, steady path right down the middle of these two fiction genres.
The author offers a reasonable amount of credible science, in this case, astronomy, geology and volcanology, to make the story plausible, and mixes it with unimpeded fantasy making it rich, creative, colourful and heartening.
It’s a story with action, adventure, well-developed, likeable characters, deep sentimentality and numerous parallels to our own 21st-century existence.
With an ocean of creativity, an almost perfectly developed, logically arranged plot, Ms Gould has delivered a winning piece guaranteed to please readers of Science Fiction and Fantasy Adventure.
[Warning: Spoilers ahead]
Human astronomers stationed on the planet Goranon have discovered life on an outer planet. As passive observers, they watch these somewhat primitive humanoids divided into two rival tribes, aware that their planet, Naxada, is in peril and that the gently furred creatures living underground in lava tubes must be relocated, or they will die. They devise a rescue plan. It’s tense, there are many unknowns, and the time frame is critical and will involve contact with the one agrarian tribe and the other hunter-gatherer tribe.
As the author introduces us to the main characters of the ‘somewhat’ primitive creatures, who are, in many ways, quite advanced with a fascinating array of tribal rituals [The author has a wonderful imagination] she simultaneously introduces us to the human astronomical team and their personal stories.
The shifting of the story between the humans and the Naxadans is done expertly and is never clumsy, distracting or confusing.
The author is careful not to overwhelm the reader with too many character introductions at one time, and she maintains each character’s identity throughout.
Besides the main plot, the author seamlessly weaves in numerous side stories that work to further define her characters and their personal goals and motivations. And like a patchwork quilt, the side stories, like individual threads, are relevant to and buttress the main story – the plight of the Naxadans and the desperate initiative of their human saviours.
[What I liked most]
Character development: The author employed an arsenal of literary devices to ensure that her readers not only care for but like her main characters. She literally reaches out from the binding, grabs you by the arms, shakes you violently and commands that you feel for these creatures during their flight to safety.
Clever and inspiring writing.
Creative detail: The tribal customs, rituals, names and even the physical features of the Naxadans are extremely imaginative. Ms Gould worked hard on this element of her work and did a praiseworthy job.
The science: The author did an extensive amount of research for this novel, and/or has a background in Volcanology, Astrophysics, or Astronomy. Either way, the inclusion added much to the story and helped it skim that narrow line between Sci-Fi and Fantasy.
I felt the Naxadans were, in ways, too human for an alien civilisation. But then, I have this same criticism of virtually every book I’ve read or film I’ve seen involving alien civilisations. I gave Hyperion by Dan Simmons a 4-Star review for the same reason, and I’m one of the few who saw the blockbuster film Avatar, [I loved it BTW, saw it two nights in a row, both times in 3d] as cowboys and Indians in outer space with amazing special effects.
The second criticism is certainly a personal preference. Some people like 90k to 100k word novels and some, like me, especially in the Sci-Fi / Fantasy genre, tend to like books a little shorter. 60k to 70k word novels, with all I have to read each month, tend to fit my schedule a bit more comfortably.
For these two, minor, reasons I give Floodtide a 4.5-Star rather than a 5-Star rating.
A very, very high recommendation. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading Science Fiction or Fantasy / Adventure novels.
I read this book in a digital format for this review but am looking forward to the delivery of my print version. This is a book I’d like in my library. One I will definitely read again.
Review by T. E. Mark – Author