Source: ARC from Netgalley
Published by: Cornerstone
Released: 23rd October 2014
Buy it from: Hive
It’s true that I wasn’t immediately blown away by Sand. Which is why I didn’t review it straight away. Sometimes books can be like olives to a child’s palate. It takes time to get used to the unfamiliar flavour. I’m pleased to say my instinct was right, and even a couple of months on, I’m still mulling the plot over in my mind.
Here’s why Sand is such a compelling read…
1: The cover
I know the old saying. But come on, be honest, we’ve all seen plenty of sci fi covers that look like the artists have been kidnapped from Mills ‘n’ Boon headquarters! For a reader who sticks primarily to fantasy with the odd nervous foray into sci fi, the cover is perfect. It suggests mystery and exotic otherworldliness without scaring you off by brandishing shiny spaceships and interplanetary bleakness.
2: The ordinariness
You know the drill. There are far too many epic tales where the protagonist starts off as a mere kitchen boy, but it’s clear from about the third page in that they’re destined for greatness (the lack of actual drudgery tends to be a bit of a giveaway). The characters in Sand aren’t just playing the part of downtrodden mortals. It’s easy to believe they are regular people struggling like everyone else to survive.
3: Diverse, but believable characters
The story is told from multiple points of view of a group of siblings. But it seems entirely natural for it to happen this way. And crucially, each of the siblings is different, but in a wholly plausible and understandable way. We learn a bit about their backstories naturally, without being hit over the head with it. And it’s enough to inform their actions as the story unfolds.
4: Normal female characters
What do I mean by normal? They aren’t simpering princesses who swoon at the first sign of conflict. But neither are they the perfect, “kickass” Lara Croft types either. They’re just as complex and flawed as the male characters, and while the world they live in might seek to define their gender, I genuinely don’t think Hugh Howey does.
5: Honour is a relative thing
The good guys aren’t all blond and heroic looking. The bad guys don’t all have a dodgy squint and a habit of explaining their plans in full to random passersby. In fact, it’s not even clear who the good and bad guys are. Not even amongst the protagonists, for a good while. And I love that the storyline makes you question whether the stereotypically moral thing to do, is still correct under strained circumstances.
6: The science bit
This was a surprise. I really didn’t expect to become so taken with the scientific side of the worldbuilding. But the explanation for how the sand divers carry out their job is just amazing. It’s rational but also magic. It’s hard to explain, but it really is incredibly innovative and just plain cool!
Now I just need Hugh Howey to publish a sequel!