Sunday 25 September 2011

Review: Rip Tide by Kat Falls

Ty has always known that the ocean is a dangerous place. Every time he swims beyond the borders of his family's subsea farm, he's prepared to face all manner of aquatic predators-sharks, squid, killer whales . . .

What Ty isn't prepared to find in the deep is an entire township chained to a sunken submarine, its inhabitants condemned to an icy underwater grave. It's only the first clue to a mystery that has claimed hundreds of lives and stands to claim two more - lives very precious to Ty and his Topsider ally, Gemma.

Now in a desperate race against the clock, Ty and Gemma find themselves in conflict with outlaws, Seaguard officers, and the savage, trident-wielding surfs - plus a menagerie of the most deadly creatures the ocean has to offer.

Back in July 2010 I posted a review of Dark Life by Kat Falls. I loved that book and said at the time that I would be very disappointed if it didn't turn out to be the first book in a series, and I am glad to say that thanks to Kat Falls and Simon and Schuster I have been spared that feeling of disappointment, and even more so because its sequel, Rip Tide, it is just as good as its predecessor.

After the events of Dark Life Gemma managed to mere three months living with Ty and her new adopted family before panic attacks forced her to move back above the waves. Since then she has been sleeping in little more than a large cupboard at the Trade Station, although is still happy to make the occasional submarine trip with Ty as long as she doesn't have to enter the water physically. Unfortunately events at the beginning of this sequel leave her with no option but to don a dive suit and within minutes she is again seemingly paralysed with fear and vowing never to go in the water again.

Apart from missing Gemma living with him and his constant worrying about her terror of the sea things have moved on quite nicely for Ty, his family and the other settles since the end of Dark Life. The government has given them permission to sell their agricultural produce on the open market, and his parents are looking forward to their first big deal with the inhabitants of Drift, a floating township. However, on the day before the deal is due to go down Ty and Gemma stumble across another one of these townships, deliberately sunk and hidden in 'the biggest trash vortex in the Atlantic' with all of its inhabitants still on board. Things go from bad to worse when the very next day Ty's parents are kidnapped midway through their deal with the people of Drift, and so begins Ty's quest to find and rescue them.

I likened Dark Life to a western beneath the waves, with the story of the settlers and their problems with bandits very reminiscent of some of the western films I watched when I was younger. Whilst there are still some of those elements present in Rip Tide, this time around the story is more of an action/adventure tale with barely a page going by without Ty or Gemma facing one kind of danger or another.

Kat Falls has a wonderful economy with words. If this were a fantasy story written for the adult market we would have to endure endless chunks of text about the world and its politics and the book would probably have ended up twice as long as its 314 pages. This is the perfect example of quality of quantity and Kate Falls delivers a story where the locations are well developed and easily pictured in mind of the reader. Her characters are also all perfectly realised, and there are some new additions in this book, some good, some bad and some downright nasty. As well as finding out a little more about Gemma's brother Shade and the members of his Seablite Gang, we also meet Mayor Fife and his nasty righthand man Ratter, Captain Revas of the Seaguard and Hadal, chief (or sachem) of Drift. Kat Falls weaves a plot where it is nigh impossible to work out the motives of these various people, and it isn't until the very last chapter that we finally discover exactly what is going on and why.

I think that Rip Tide would make a really good class reader for an 11+ english group. Not only is it very well written with a brilliantly imagined futuristic setting, but it would also give rise to many class discussions relevant to the world in which we live, on such topics as discrimination (e.g. the prejudice faced by Ty when surface dwellers see his shine), corruption (the way the government and various other characters in power act), and poverty (the members of the townships have a fairly low quality of life) and sustainability (for the township dwellers nothing is ever thrown away if it can be reused, recycled or repaired).

Rip Tide was published in the UK by Simon and Schuster at the beginning of August and my thanks go to the good people at S&S for sending me a copy to review. Hopefully there will be more adventures of Ty and Gemma to come in the future.

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