Advent Reviews Day 2: Osiris by E. J. Swift

For Day 2 of my Advent Reviews series, I bring to you my thoughts on the this debut novel by author E. J. Swift, the first in the Osiris Project series being published by Night Shade Books, who have put out such gems as Teresa Frohock’s Miserere: An Autumn’s Tale and Nathan Long’s Jane Carver of Waar.

Osiris_wraparound_Corrected03.inddAmong the bloggers that I follow, there is a general sentiment around that a high percentage of the novels published by Night Shade push genre boundaries and take bold chances that are often trend-setters. Now, most of these bloggers have been avidly reading novels with an eye to being critical for far longer than I have, so they have a much broader scope of experience that dictates this particular opinion. I’ve only been reading as a reviewer for a little over a year, and reading Night Shade Books for about 60% of that time. From my own limited experience (so far), I would have to agree that Night Shade’s novels often do things that you wouldn’t normally find from some of the big publishers. I’ve mentioned two novels up above, two of my favourite Night Shade books. There’s also Kameron Hurley’s God’s War, and Jeff Salyards’ Scourge of the Betrayer, Courtney Schafer’s The Whitefire Crossing, Stina Leicht’s Of Blood And Honey and Katy Stauber’s Spin The Sky. These are all novels that have gone beyond what my expectations, although only one of them disappointed me, God’s War, and I had to stop in the middle. The interconnecting link between all these novels is that they are not just science fiction or fantasy, or whatever genre/sub-genre you want to lump them into. They take some really bold chances, and they present settings that are very different from what you will find in mainstream SFF publishing. E. J. Swift’s Osiris continues that trend.

It is a novel that is not just a post-apocalyptic dystopia. It raises questions about life in a world that has suffered massive global climate changes, and pairs that against an almost commentary on social and political differences in the last remaining (ostensibly) bastion of human civilisation. Adelaide and Vikram could not be any more different from each other than they are, one the daughter of a ruling family of this last remaining human city, and the other a rebel working to improve the life of his fellow poor and disenfranchised. The boundaries that separate them are very reiminiscent of what the boundaries that separated East and West Germany after the Second World War. And that is just one of the imageries that Swift conjures up with her narrative. Osiris is not just a novel about rich versus the poor, it is also about breaking social barriers and being willing to make changes that will resonate down the generations. It presents both sides of the “conflict” very well with characters that are nuanced and compelling. For me, the characters and the setting of the novel were the highlights.

But, the novel also had some glaring pacing issues. The perspective switches between Vikram and Adelaide after often disorienting at first before the chapters pick up, rather quickly at times, and rather slow at others. The first thirty-forty pages of the novel are also a downright slog to get through as there is quite a bit of information provided to the reader, and a prologue that is very disorienting, and which doesn’t actually make much sense until right towards the end of the novel.

Then there’s also the fact that the author failed to actually explore the Egyptian references conjured up by the name of the novel and the layout of most structures in the city, pyramids. Osiris was a premier Egyptian god, of life and afterlife in fact. In the divisions between the elite of the city and the dregs, there are hints of the “worthy are judged and those who must keep on suffering”, but for me, it wasn’t enough. It was an almost too subtle concept, and I wanted something much more substantial to latch onto, something much more obvious and easy to relate to right off the bat.

And finally, the big reveal about the death of Adelaide’s brother Axe fell flat to me. It was a really good sub-plot in the narrative, but the pay-off was signposted early on and when it was “revealed” at the end, it had little emotional impact on me. It was like knowing the big twist in a thriller/suspense movie about 60% in. That’s not fun you know.

Other than that though, I’d say that Swift shows a lot of promise and if the author can push further for the second novel, then the end product will be much more fun than this debut. Swift’s writing, by itself, is quite impressive, just, the author should have more clarity in the narrative, both in terms of content and a consistent voice.

Rating: 7/10

Previous Advent Review: Day 1 – Batman 2012 Annual by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV

Posted on December 2, 2012, in 2012 Reading Challenge, 2012 Writing Challenge, Book Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I’ve been looking at this title for a while now, and I completely agree that Nightshade has been putting out amazing titles lately. I’m trying to get hooked on some brand new authors as well, so Swift fits the bill – brand new, and vetted by NSB.

    it’s ok if the beginning is slow, I usually try to get thru the first 100 pages of a book in the first sitting, so by then I aughta be past the slow bits.


    • My usual process is to give the book about 60 pages worth of leeway to get me hooked and reading. Sometimes I break that rule if a book was requested by me, or if I really promised a review. But yeah, do let me know how you find the book!


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