Genre: Science Fiction
Released: June 2018
Reviewed by: Jane Stockwell
I truly had high hopes for this book. It started well, with interesting elements of Frank Herbert’s Dune apparent from the get-go. But my enjoyment of the book was cut short as the anticipated exciting climax got pushed into the as yet unpublished sequel.
I don’t know why authors feel the need to release a book that is not a complete story. J. K. Rowling managed to write one of the most successful book series in recent times, each book has its own beginning and end. Yet with Sandstorm, it felt like watching that bit of Star Trek right at the beginning before they roll the opening theme tune. The stage is set, then they move on to the rest of the story. Except they didn’t add that bit.
Actually, I think I do know why some authors write part of a book – it’s a way of ensuring that next sale; because without Part #2 the story isn’t yet told. Book series are incredibly popular these days, but if you’re going to do it, do it right. Build a complete story that supports the story arc for the underlying series. For the love of God, don’t release half a book.
So with that rant out of the way, Sandstone caught my attention with a staccato style, very short chapters, each jumping from one protagonist to the next. It follows the story of Neela, her brothers Raj and Samel on the planet Ravar (which is more than a little like Dune’s Arrakis), complete with giant sandworm bursting forth from the sand to swallow people and animals in one gulp.
Their world is a failed human colony where a scant three generations prior, contact with their Earth progenitors stopped suddenly. Nobody knows if the silence is because they have been abandoned here or even if the Earth has been destroyed. Generations on, the culture has reverted to small primal, hunter-gatherer villages with knowledge of technology fading and life becoming more and more difficult to sustain in the harsh desert climate with each passing year.
Clearly, there is more going on, perhaps another human or alien presence remaining hidden in cave systems. Even the Dune-inspired worm known only as the Abomination seems to have its own secrets.
Throw in Kai, a young man from another village who runs into Neela while he tries to escape the Abomination (which for reasons only known to itself seems to have fixated itself on him), and there is the start of a great story.
If only the rest of the story was here. I am a fan of well-written series, they are familiar and by the time you’re a book or three in, you have a real empathy for the characters. All I ask is that if you’re going to release a book, even one that is part of a series, can you please publish the whole thing, rather than just the teaser before the opening titles?