More holiday reading

Personal: It’s been a mixed day. I’ve filled in my tax return and paid what the government demands, never a cheering activity. But I’ve also submitted a book proposal (for another volume of Peak District folktales) to a publisher I’ve never contacted before, but has been recommended to me by a fellow-storyteller.

And Con, the sequel to Perilaus II, is now available from the Great Monster Amazon: … (And of course directly from the publisher, Fantastic Books Publishing, or via your local bookshop).

Review: I recently read Jack Mann’s sci-fi novel Gravity’s Arrow. Even if you’re not a sci-fi fan (I’m not!), try this one. I recommend it.

Gravity’s Arrow is a long novel but it doesn’t feel long to the reader. At no point does it ‘drag’, and the final quarter of the book is a white-knuckle ride that kept me reading long after my usual bedtime. There are several features that make it work well. First and foremost, there’s an engaging protagonist, Fhilo, whose family is highly eccentric but loving. An empathetic central character is essential in any genre of fiction. Second, it’s driven by conflict, as all good novels are: there is betrayal and there are divided loyalties, and there’s also an element of romance. Third, the book works very well just as an adventure story, with a good deal of fighting (some of it fairly bloody, and with occasional horror-fiction scenes). Fourth, on a different level, it addresses questions that should concern us all on our own little planet. How ought we to deal with other species that we might regard as monsters, and with species we choose to exploit? What part does (or can) religion play in driving conflict – or in mitigating it? In other words, this is a multi-level story, at once entertaining and thought-provoking.

The writing is of high quality but generally within the grasp of the intended young-adult readership. In the early pages there are a lot of names, and that could deter some readers, but given the very large cast of characters (which the story needs) there’s no way round this, and  Dr Mann doesn’t commit the all too common sci-fi and fantasy faux pas of paralysing the action with excess world-building. Nor does he allow his medical expertise to intrude on his story-telling; he makes good but subtle use of it.

I enjoyed the book on more than one level. I believe it would merit a second reading – when I have time! – but if the promised sequel appears then I’ll probably read that first.

Jack Mann, Gravity’s Arrow, Fantastic Books Publishing, 2019; ISBN: 9781912053063



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