Shale is dying. A vast, chaotic, monster-bearing storm known only as the Roil is expanding, consuming the land.Roil is set in a very different world to ours. Every layer of it is different, and so it takes a little while for the world to be fully built up — to Jamieson's credit, he avoids large chunks of info dumping — the blurb doesn't do that aspect justice. The Roil itself is a seething storm of monsters and destruction which can only be fought with cold. There's a bit of a steampunk aspect to the endothermic weaponry (ice cannon, ice rifles, cooled swords) and the transportation, but against the backdrop of the world being destroyed, it didn't feel as steampunky as another book might.
Where once there were twelve great cities, now only four remain, and their borders are being threatened by the growing cloud of darkness. The last humans are fighting back with ever more bizarre new machines. But one by one the defences are failing. And the Roil continues to grow.
With the land in turmoil, it’s up to a decadent wastrel, a four thousand year-old man, and a young woman intent on revenge to try to save their city – and the world.
Margaret (see cover art) comes from a city that is already surrounded by the Roil. The other cities think it was destroyed when the Roil overtook it, but thanks to the ingenuity of her parents, the city was able to survive for twenty more years, keeping the monsters at bay with sophisticated ice cannon although they couldn't hold the ever-present darkness back. The story opens with the fall of Margaret's city and her flight out of the Roil.
Around the same time, David, a young drug addict, watches his father get assassinated and knows that he's next. In the course of fleeing for his life, he meets up with Cadell an Old (ancient) Man, and the only hope for defeating the Roil.
Ultimately, it's not just the Roil and its monsters that our main characters are up against; there are human forces with their own agenda — like the man who wants David dead — for them to contend with also.
I liked reading about both Margaret and David, although Margaret is definitely the more kickarse character and David is a bit wet behind the ears. There was a third character, Medicine Paul, who I found it harder to relate to because for the first half of the book I wasn't entirely sure whether I should be on his side or not. I suspect he'll play a more prominent role in the sequel.
The way Roil is written, you have to trust some aspects of the worldbuilding to make sense later on, which didn't bother me but might bother some readers. Also, while I wouldn't call Roil a horror book, it definitely has some aspects of horror, like someone being eaten by spiders and lots of people being possessed by evil moths. Fair warning. Perhaps dark steampunk fantasy would be an apt sub-genre/description. It also can be read as a metaphor for global warming but doesn't have to be and can definitely be enjoyed either way. I'm not sure if the parallels were the author's intention but they do exist. Oh, and points to him for getting thermodynamics right (with the endothermic weaponry etc), always good to see.
I enjoyed Roil more than I expected to
4.5 / 5 stars
- Published: August 2011, Angry Robot Books
- Series: Nightbound Land, book 1 of 2
- Format read: ebook (DRM-free ePub from publisher's website), also available in paperback
- Source: bought myself