I just finished reading “The Inferior” by Peadar Ó Guilín.
I loved it.
This is Peadar’s first novel, but I’ve admired his short stories for a long time. They stick in my memory them for years.
Although the novel’s SF, it begins like standard fantasy dystopia, with the protagonist, Stopmouth running for his life, chased by intelligent animals who want to eat him. Then he turns back to help his brother, who escapes, leaving Stopmouth in mortal danger. When Stopmouth finally makes it home, he finds that his brother has grabbed all the credit.
Ó Guilín keeps up this pace all the way, with the surpises jumping out at you like marauding Bloodskins.
Stopmouth is my kind of hero. He doesn’t think he’s special – just the reverse – because he has a stutter and a charismatic older brother. But he’s not stupid, and he has one plausible talent – he runs fast. He has to win through by his own efforts, so I cared. The other main characters are distinct and plausible too, from the brutal Crunchfist to the enigmatic Varaha.
It turns out that in Stopmouth’s world there is no plant food. Apart from the insects, there are many intelligent species, and everything hunts everything else for survival. At this point I started thinking, “Hang, on, this ecosystem doesn’t work,” but this is indeed SF, and Stopmouth’s world isn’t what he (and we) thought at all. The truth is much nastier than that.
My only real problem with this novel is that it’s the first of a trilogy, and I’m going to have to wait far too long for the next installment. No wonder it’s coming out in eight (count ’em!) languages.