Inish Carraig is a self published e-book from Jo Zebedee, author of Abendau’s Heir which is the first book of The Inheritance Trilogy recently picked up for publication by TicketyBooPress.
The main story arc follows John and Taz, two teenage friends trying to survive in a desolate and war torn Belfast, a city in despair following an alien invasion by the technologically superior and hulking Zelotyr. While a secondary but no less significant arc follows Carter, a cop forced into co-operation with the Zelotyr as a Zelo-human liaison officer in the post war landscape. The Zelotyr invasion we learn, was only halted by the mysterious and enigmatic alien Barath’na and a ruling by the Zelo-Barath’na Galactic Council declaring humanity a sentient species.
As the story unfolds rioting and civil unrest take hold in Belfast and Inish Carraig, the titular prison, is conceived and built by the Barath’na for the dissidents, seeing the start of their expanding role in the story.
The plot is mostly tight and well paced, while the writing is gritty and delves into the motivations and emotional states of the characters with a subtle and nuanced touch. The characters are believable and feel worthy of emotional investment, Carter in particular has an interesting backstory which guides his decision making process throughout the novel and Josey (John’s sister) is also a well imagined character the reader ends up rooting for. The plot however does suffer from an issue with a pair of robotic companions which are an obvious Chekhov Gun the reader knows need to go off and seem to exist only to move the plot forward – although admittedly in an unexpected way.
The novel is exclusively earthbound and taking place in Ireland has a lot of local idioms and vernacular dialogue, although these are not esoteric enough to cause issues for non native readers. The science element is very soft and only used as a backdrop for the story which sometimes moves along of its own accord allowing the plot narrative to drive character motivations – this feeling of events happening offstage adds a needed urgency to the teenagers plight. The overall tone is quite dark in places with scattered humour providing some contrast but the darker themes are not enough to push this outside the bounds of YA territory. Similar to Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea it holds a dark tonal narrative whilst straddling YA and adult SFF neatly.
There are some good aspects to this novel but also some areas that need more attention in any potential sequels; the Zelotyr and the Barath’na were interesting but needed more development and more revelation to the reader (whilst I can describe a Barath’na I still find it hard to picture a Zelo). The technology would benefit from more exposure and the Galactic Council seemed limited, only consisting of two species which could be expanded on in subsequent novels. The Inish Carraig centred scenes with the Barath’na Governor however were particularly emotionally evocative and effective but this section of the novel could have been fleshed out more considerably – I don’t think the novel would have suffered from a higher page count in this regard.
Jo has expressed there may be a sequel dependant on the critical/commercial success of Inish Carraig and if the recent Amazon sales are anything to go by then I am hopeful we may see more in the Inish Carraig universe. Inish Carraig recently peaked as high as #4 in the All Sci-Fi listings on Amazon. Not usually one for self published novels, following submission by the author and I was not dissapointed.
I would recommend this novel to SF or dystopia fans and it is very well suited to a YA audience but that shouldn’t deter adults. Inish Carraig is a solidly plotted and well paced read with some interesting ideas and a good SF mystery at the core from a new and exciting author.