Steve Backshall is undoubtedly one of television’s best known wildlife presenters. Working for the BBC’s Natural History Unit, he’s fronted numerous television programmes including Deadly 60, a hugely successful children’s series that sees the adventurer coming face to face with some of the world’s most dangerous creatures.
Whilst Tiger Wars isn’t Backshall’s first book (he’s released a string of factual titles and television tie-ins) it does represent his first foray into young-adult fiction. The novel follows Sinter as she flees from an arranged marriage to a much older man, and Saker, as he is hunted by The Clan, a shadowy sect which provides young renegades for hire. Most recently, to a Chinese overlord who specialises in tiger poaching.
Backshall’s writing is fast-paced and crisp. There are no overly verbose descriptions of the exotic Indian and Chinese settings (something you could be forgiven for expecting from a naturalist), and, when the time comes for an injection of science or the green message, facts are woven into the narrative with an impressive subtlety. The story arc is well crafted, too, with Saker and Sinter’s plots intertwining seamlessly before heading towards the book’s satisfying conclusion.
Tiger Wars isn’t perfect, however. Whilst structurally effective, Saker’s amnesia storyline is somewhat clichéd and may prevent readers from losing themselves in the otherwise immersive prose. The villains are also a tad generic, but Saker and (particularly) Sinter are wonderful characters; they more than make up for any shortcomings.
It’s also important to note that the book doesn’t shy away from difficult scenes, treating its target audience with enough respect to expose them to the grim realities of illegal tiger slaughter from the off. It’s a good move, with popular authors such as Patrick Ness voicing concerns over censorship, younger readers have perhaps never been more wary of books that steer them away from sensitive issues.
September 25, 2014Leave a comment
In 2013 Gilbert released the excellent The Cloud Diary and soon followed it up with other books including the delightful Super Fred and Doodeedoo. Driftwood from the Specific is the author’s latest release, a collection of ten short stories.
Driftwood is certainly an apt title because the book contains a plethora of different genres all come together. From contemporary horror, to twee sci-fi and noir-ish mobster tales, there really is a lot going on here. Some of the stories are comprised of just a few lines, others are significantly longer and there are even a few fun poems thrown in; How to write a poem’s clever use of formatting and convention defiance a particular highlight.
The longer stories are all entertaining, gripping in places, and Dick, the gritty story of a private investigator’s dealings with femme fatales, Red and Lois Love, is wonderful. Gilbert captures the essence and style of noir perfectly, and, if this book is the author’s attempt to suss out which kind of genre to write in next, mobster noir is definitely the way he should go.
September 14, 20141 Comment
I’ve been working on the opening to my upcoming novel this week, and I think I’ve realised that the key to grabbing a reader’s attention might just be to – well, how would you feel if I didn’t tell you just yet?
I think it’s that familiar mixture of intrigue and anticipation experienced in other areas of life which convinces a reader to stay between the pages. This feeling comes before a reader has got to know a book’s characters, and before they’ve decided if they enjoy the author’s style.
This is (I think!) what first chapters should do: ask a question, the more mysterious and captivating the better. It’s only natural for humans to want to resolve a situation, and, if a reader is invested in the question from the off, they’re much more likely to read the rest of a given novel too.
So, what do you think gang? Do you agree?
September 12, 20142 Comments