I don’t usually read modern fantasy, and most of the sci-fi I have read is the classic kind (Jules Verne, H G Wells, Ray Bradbury), but when I befriended Chele Cooke via an online writers’ forum, I was intrigued by her debut novel’s title to find out more. In particular, why the strange spelling of the Buryd? – especially when it would make the book title harder to search for online! (Actually, that now strikes me as a bold stroke of genius – I’m sure lots of other readers will be drawn in by the unusual title!)
She kindly sent me one of the very first paperback copies as soon as the book was launched, and as soon as I started reading it, I was gripped.
The bleakly haunting cover is a good indication of the nature of this story, set on a blighted, post-apocalyptic planet. A natural disaster affecting the planet’s orbit has disrupted its climate, which then ricochets between unbearably hot weather and freezing cold. To survive, its people must shelter during the heat in dark tunnels and shady buildings; during the chill they must migrate in search of warmth. This was a sobering and thought-provoking premise in the light of modern controversy about global warming.
Following the disaster, the planet’s people form tribes who work together to survive. One brutal group dominates the rest, throwing into the anarchic Lyndbury penitentiary compound anyone who offends them. This punishment is deemed a fate worse than death, and the “Buryd” of the title is a contraction of Lyndbury.
The opening of the story, with a grandfather relating to his grandson how this situation came about, is a sensitive and effective overture to the novel’s themes of loyalty and friendship in adversity. The tale’s heroine is Georgianna, a young medic, who is doing all in her power to improve the lives of the downtrodden tribes, including the unfortunate “Buryd” inmates of Lyndbury. Although the setting is as grim as Orwell’s 1984,the survival of Georgianna’s compassion and her and her friends’ humanitarian instincts also make it an uplifting story.
In summary, this is a very good debut novel, creating a convincing fantasy world, from a writer who I am sure will be well-received among fans of modern fantasy and sci-fi. It’s the first book in her proposed Out of Orbit series, and its ending sets up a powerful link to the second instalment, which I look forward to reading.