Ruin’s Wake by Patrick Edwards

Titan Books, 2019, 413 p.

It is the year of the Quincentennnial of the Hegemony, an authoritarian state set up by The Seeker after a civilisational collapse known as the Ruin, a society where everyone knows the sun (called Ras) orbits the Earth as the true cosmology of the heavens has been lost even the word ‘planet’ has been lost; but some tech is still left over from the old time.

In the wintry wilds of the north Professor Sulara Song is investigating an archaeological site that may contain an artefact from before the Ruin; at a strip mine on a frozen steppe a man called Cale receives bad news about his son, Bowden; in the city, Kelbee, sold by her father to be the wife of a defender of the Hegemony known to the reader only as the Major (but after a promotion as the Lance-Colonel,) is little but a drudge and sex-slave, allowed outside the house only to work at the lowest grade in a garment factory.

Song’s experiences are given us in the form of journal she writes – and hers is a voice that is wry and compelling – Cale’s and Kelbee’s stories are told in the third person and their personalities therefore come across less sharply. All are actual or potential foes of the Hegemony; Song since the artefact threatens to undermine its foundation myth, Cale as a former comrade of the revolutionary known as Brennev, Kelbee through her growing connection with Nebn who befriends her one day when he comes to the factory to repair a piece of equipment.

The revelation of the underground artefact’s capabilities reads, though, like an interpolation from a different book. (Then again, after regression followed by five hundred years of stagnation any sufficiently advanced technology would seem like magic.) Even knowledge of its facilities represents a threat to the Hegemony’s belief systems and therefore its control of the populace. For unlike the citizens of the Hegemony, kept separate, individualised yet subject to group orthodoxy (as is the ideal for all dictatorships,) “Our ancestors had tinkered with themselves, with the brain itself, back before the Ruin. Every new-born child inherited its parents’ ability to connect with the data corpus, not limited by proximity.”

Perhaps because it was his first novel Edwards is not quite as in control of his prose as he is in his second book, the excellent Echo Cycle, which I reviewed for Interzone, nor is his focus as tight. There is a sense here – especially in the hierarchy of the Hegemony (its head Fulvia arc Borunmer, though the first woman in that post “since… well, ever” is a typical vengeful dictator,) even the existence of the ‘Free City,’ Aspedair, supposedly the only entity on the planet that is not under the Hegemony’s sway, is not an entirely original concept – that he is feeling his way into writing, exploring other people’s scenarios than his own, conforming to a template, that he has not yet found his own voice.

Ruin’s Wake is still very readable though, and Edwards’s portrayal of human relationships and interactions is convincing.

Pedant’s corner:- Time interval later/within time interval count: 17. Otherwise; maw (it’s not a mouth,) sprung (sprang,) “the situation appeared to be diffused” (the situation was not spread out, it was resolved; defused,) “the thick pile of blankets that served as a bed” (earlier on there had been a mattress in the room,) “the light coming under the jamb” (this use of ‘jamb’ appears twice; a door’s jamb is at its side, not its bottom-most part,) snuck under the door jambs (sneaked, and see previous comment,) “the volume of the whole chamber 1,985 metres cubed and the surface area 947 metres squared” (1,985 cubic metres and the surface area 947 square metres. I didn’t bother checking the figures,) “Syn grabbed length of rope” (a length of rope,) sat (x2, sitting,) “the music swelled to a crescendo” (no it didn’t; it swelled [crescendoed] to a climax.) “Which was the truth she wondered” (is a question, so needs a question mark.) “Where would those boys would be now” (remove the second ‘would’,) dove (dived,) “a deep sob wracked her body” (racked.) “None of the people … were armed” (none … was armed,) “darkened by oxidisation” (the verb is ‘oxidise’ the noun is ‘oxidation’,) “it fit snug” (it fitted snugly,) “What struck her most were the looks on the aces” (what struck her most was …..) “He was stood in the wrong place” (standing in the wrong place.) “None of the guns were trained on him” (None … was.) “He was stood in front of her” (standing.)

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

free hit counter script