Review - Torrent by Lindsay Buroker

Tina Holmboe 15th of December 2013 (archive)


Why do I start with a summary? It’s to give you, the reader, a one, perhaps two, maybe even three–paragraph summarising my views on the re–readability, purchase–worthiness and target audience of the book — for what it is worth — without giving away any plot details.

What, then, is «re–readability»? The ideal book, for me, is one that can be read over and over and over again; the perfect book is the one in by re–reading you discover new facets, new things to consider. Purchase–worthiness suggests whether it was worth the expense, and target audience attempt to sum up the genre(s) and predict who might enjoy the story.

Re–readability: High; eight out of ten.

Purchase–worthiness: High. I would not hesitate in getting the next book in the series, if one is written.

Target audience: an interest in contemporary fantasy with non–superhero characters showing extraordinary strength in facing adversity. Some «scenes» of graphic, realistic and unrealistic, violence, but I would not hesitate in giving this to a teenager.

The Grit

Warning: There are spoilers below.

Lindsay Buroker may well be best known for her Emperor’s Edge series, but she has by no means restricted herself to the quasi–steampunk genre.

This, the first book in a theoretical new series, is set in a contemporary US of A which both USians and others will easily recognise. The overall genre is fantasy, drawing heavily on the relic hunting sub–category, as well as archaeology, mystery and even a very faint whiff of romance. Quite a bit of humour is in here, tho this is not a comedy.

The language is English — as always I recommend reading books in their original — and flows easily. Naturally, as a norwegian, I am not competent in judging the prose itself, but there are no snags; no need to go back and re–read to understand what the author attempted to say.

The writing does not come across as overly simplistic, childish, or stuffed with «he said, she said»s. Dialogue and scene description mix cleanly, and info–dumps are handled by intermixing required information with the action. It is also clear that the author has a good thesaurus, in her head or on paper. Very rarely do I run across the problem of repetition so common to newly hatched writers — myself among them. Quite chuffed with the style here, in short.

How about the plot? It certainly is unique — at least in my experience: a self–professed explorer (she does indeed avoid the word «scavenger») plus (business)partner hunt for reasonably modern–day relics in the backwaters of the US. Their speciality, this season, is in old mining equipment; young enough not to attract undue attention from museums and governments, but old enough to be collector’s items. From this they make a meagre living until all hell breaks lose in the form of a likely–not–accidentally decapitated body pops up. Can’t blame Br’er Bear for this one, kids.

With the arrival of two very strange fellows (not strange because they drive Harley–Davidson motorbikes. That just show they got poor taste…:) with odd clothing and queer speech, events speed up and twist. When an old girlfriend turns up, followed in rapid order by a brace of LEOs, a school of national guardsmen and –women, a single ex colleague and — remotely — a host of drunken–and–getting–worse scientists, the scene is almost set.

The magic sword complete it. Is fantasy. Has elves too. Of sorts. The single strangest elves since Tanya Huff’s di’Taykan and Mercedes Lackey’s Serrated Edge variants, I might add. Twelve out of ten for that quirk :)

Delia and Simon make up our protagonists. Together they run Rust & Relics, selling old coffee grinders and claw buckets, making a meagre living and more often than not camping out in Simon’s old Volkswagen Vanagon — Transporter for us Europeans — nicknamed Zelda.

The naming of the ’wagen gives us a clue to Simon’s personality — he’s a gamer. Such clues, allowing the reader to assemble their own mental image of both characters, are sprinkled liberally throughout the book. Such a methodology can only be applauded. 10/10 for the effort.

We learn that Simon is Simon Jimmicum, a gamer, a geek, a part–time hippie, full time programmer, and reluctant Makah native american with a love–hate relationship with his heritage.

Delia is, by her own admission, a child of the only Greek eco–hippy community in the world, an archaeology graduate by vocation, an Indiana Jones fan complete with self–made whip and self–made sarcasm.

Both are well–rounded, three–dimensional, characters whom you can easily start to care for. I want to see how things work out for them – I ought to add, in relation to the third main character: Artemis «Temi» Sideris, new on–probation–only–hiree at Rust & Relic, owner of a Jaguar, a mean reputation on the tennis courts, and a contrary leg.

She, however, is a mite flat at this point. We know a great deal of her, but she remains so firmly in the background that, at times, she disappear — one of my very few gripes with the story. Even in circumstances where one would expect Ms. Sideris to be part of the dialogue, she remain strangely quiet. Five out of ten for this one, mainly because while she isn’t a main character, she’s not a supporting actress either. Between two chairs she fall.

Stuff — that’s one of those professional terms we reviewers use — get very confused, very fast; our two protagonists are never quite sure where they stand and it doesn’t let up until well past the final scene. The two quite realistic humans are left with more questions than answers, a little bit more money than they used to have, new friendships and the above mentioned magical sword.

They make mistakes, they fail, they succeed, they get into and out of trouble. In short: they are human, and well described.

Does the story make sense, then? Yes, and no. It is written from the point of view of two entirely ordinary individuals who lacks the big picture. They simply don’t know, and what little they learn are not enough for them to make sense of what has happened — and neither do we. The truth may be out there, but we are stuck with not knowing it. If experiencing the story as the characters does is not your cup of tea, I cannot suggest Torrent.

But if you accept that you are riding shotgun with the characters, knowing roughly what they do, seeing what they see and learning what they learn, then a very, very warm recommendation for Torrent.

And Ms. Buroker? You ask, in the end, whether readers think you should write more in this series? To quote myself on Twitter: HELL, yeah.


Torrent by Lindsay Buroker. Estimated 251 pages; Kindle format only. Published by Lindsay Buroker on the 21st of September 2013. © 2013 Lindsay Buroker. Available from Amazon.

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