For the longest time, I thought publisher Angry Robot was putting out some of the best science fiction and fantasy on the market. Exciting, cutting-edge works were coming out of this press quite regularly. Then a couple of years ago I began to get disappointed with what I was reading – for the first time in a decade there are books that I am not requesting from them because I didn’t like the first book in a series. Though I am always willing to try a new book and a new author, I was starting to wonder if it was worth it. And then a book like Spidertouch, by Alex Thomson, appears, renewing my faith in the fantasy field and in Angry Robot books.
To the book…
An alien race called The Keda have ruled over the city known as Val Kedic for hundreds of years. They are cruel and ruthless, keeping the locals in line by punishing the children for parental slights, and sending the children off to the mines for back-breaking, cruel work at an early age. Razvan was spared this usual fate … now middle-aged, Razvan was trained as a translator for the Keda are a mute race who communicate through a complicated system of touching, referred to by the natives as ‘Spidertouch.’ Razvan has become a trusted translator among the more elite Keda members.
But, though harsh, the Keda have grown complacent with the iron fist rule and a resistance group is ready to wrest control away from the Keda. Razvan, a mild-mannered translator has the opportunity to step up, but will he risk the life of his son?
There’s nothing particularly special about the general world here. This is some typical fantasy – evil alien rulers and a plot to get rid of them. The aliens themselves are big, mean, baddies and we really don’t find anyone among the Keda to sympathize with or for. They are there to provide an obstacle for our protagonist.
But what is special about this story is the unique language building that author Thomson has created. Perhaps because I’m fascinated with ASL (though I don’t know it), this had a real appeal to me. It’s one thing for an author come up with different words for items, it’s another to create a different system of communication and the language to go along with it.
And while a unique language like this is fascinating, it isn’t enough to carry an entire book. Fortunately, Thomson is a deft storyteller and is able to get the reader interested in his primary character (Razvan) and build action, suspense, and excitement over the plot and the dangers of taking on the attempt.
The characters do tend to be a bit limited – only Razvan really stands out and all the Keda are sort of interchangeable.
Still I liked this quite a bit – I’d like to see Thomson grow as a writer and I look forward to reading more works by this author. If there were a follow-up or sequel to Spidertouch, I’d definitely be interested.
Looking for a good book? Spidertouch by Alex Thomson is a solid fantasy with a good protagonist and a unique, well-crafted language. Fans of fantasy with uprising action should enjoy this.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
* * * * * *
author: Alex Thomson
publisher: Angry Robot
paperback, 400 pages