Inish Carraig is a book that was robbed of placement on the shortlist for last year’s Hugo awards, its spot taken by the likes of the inimitable Chuck Tingle, who was placed there by the antics of a group of angry men whose only wish is to Make Science Fiction Great Again.
I hadn’t heard of the book, or of Jo Zebedee, its author, when she emailed me toward the end of last year asking for a review. I imagine that, in some ways, that was the dastardly puppies’ goal. To relegate strong authors to obscurity. It’s tragic, because so many great books, like Zebedee’s, are casualties of the puppies’ campaign. As I said to her in an email, it’s a tremendous honor for this ol’ blog o’ mine to get contacted by a Hugo nominee. If my review won’t compel you to pick up Innish Carraig, I hope at the very least you’ll check out her other work at jozebedee.com.
Inish Carraig is, among many other things, a great read. Its characters are well-built and compelling (if occasionally frustrating in the way teenagers can be), its setting is electric, and the story so solidly built that I honestly had no idea how the conflict would resolve. Up until the very last pages, I was guessing what would happen, and I was wrong on every count. The surprise was perfect, the resolution satisfying, and the the whole thing packed up neatly.
The story follows John Dray, a survivor of a brutal alien invasion, as he attempts to feed his siblings in bombed-out Belfast. He’s caught up in a conspiracy that is way over his head when he’s accidentally responsible for the genocide of the on-planet occupiers, a sort of insectoid race which came to Earth for its resources.
What follows is equal parts action adventure, mystery, teen angst, and political maneuvering. John is caught in the middle of a galactic war between bizarre species, and the safety of all humanity hangs in the balance. It’s all very epic.
It would have been a clichéd YA novel, if not for Zebedee’s hard approach—it’s definitely not a kids’ book—and excellent planning of the story. She seeded my brain with all of the proper assumptions/red herrings to keep me from predicting how the book would end, and that left such a deep satisfaction in me that as I finished the last paragraph, I actually sighed with contentment.
Inish Carraig isn’t what I expected, and I think that, reading my own words above, it probably isn’t what you expect either. The long story can be condensed thus: Inish Carraig is an excellent take on the alien-invasion paradigm, drawn with stark lines that give no quarter from the anger and terror that such a situation would impose, especially on young survivors. You should absolutely pick up a copy.
Inish Carraig is available on Amazon.