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Updraft (Bone Universe book 1) by Fran Wilde (ebook review).

January 29, 2019 | By | Reply More

Fran Wilde’s story, ‘Updraft (Bone Universe book 1)’ story is set in a city above the clouds, where citizens live in towers made of bones. It is governed by singers who live in a place called the Spire, a central tower.

The story follows Kirit Densira, the daughter of a well known trader. Kirit breaks the law by staying out on her balcony during a migration of deadly creatures called skymouths. When one comes to eat her, she screams at it and, to her surprise, it goes away. She is found by a singer, who explains to her that her ability to shout at and harm skymouths is a valuable ability with which she can help the city, if she becomes a singer. But Kirit doesn’t want to be a singer as she wants to be a trader like her mother.

To do this, she must pass the wing test, which will allow her to fly freely through the city. Kirit is punished for her crime and the singers are determined to make life difficult for her, in order to force her to become a singer. Can Kirit find a way to evade being a singer? What would life as a singer be like?

The world-building in this story is extremely well thought out and unique. There are some really interesting concepts, in terms of the structure of the city and what life is like for citizens. For example, because the world is based in the sky, flying is an important mode of transport, therefore citizens must learn to fly and pass a test in order to be allowed to fly in the sky freely unaccompanied. There is a well thought out system of rules around flying, which are woven in to the story.

There is an interesting mix of instances in which the society is good and bad. It has much potential, but ultimately some very big problems. Wilde’s exploration of this through Kirit working out how she feels about the world is extremely well done. There are some intriguing parallels to our own world, in terms of corrupt systems and things that people do and don’t question because that’s the way it’s always been done.

Kirit is an interesting character. She is very outspoken and spends much of the book challenging authority. As much as I like her, I feel that at times she lacks nuance and I would have liked her to be slightly more developed.

There is a fairly large supportive cast of characters which I feel works really well for this story. Kirit knows many people in the city and knows of even more. This helps to make the city feel like a community which it is in many ways.

This story spends much time looking at typical dystopian themes such as finding one’s place in the world and speaking out, yet the unusual world make it engaging. The mix of both good and bad in the world add more nuance to the story.

Wilde incorporates the practical impact of the world on a wide range of citizens. For example, there are many disabled supporting characters, mainly who sustained flying injuries and the implications of the world for these characters, both in terms of social treatment and accessibility, is explored in an engaging manner. It’s details like these that give this story more depth and nuance than many dystopian stories.

The plot is very engaging. There are many twists and turns with Wilde moving from one plot point to another at a brisk pace which helps to sustain reader engagement.

Overall, I think this is a really interesting read. If you like dystopia and fancy a new take on some traditional tropes or fancy a story with good inclusive world building, this is definitely worth a read.

Rebecca Thorne

January 2019

(pub: TOR, 2016. 384 page ebook. Price: $ 7.80 (US), £ 5.91 (UK). USBN: 978-0-76537-784-5)

check out website: www.TOr.com and https://franwilde.wordpress.com/

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Category: Books, Fantasy

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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