The Inferior by Peadar O Guilin. 2008. (Originally published in Great Britain 2007)
The Inferior begins with an adrenaline-pumping chase:
The rule was to keep running--Don't stop, don't die. The Tribe needed its strongest to survive. So Stopmouth fled for his life through the streets of Hairbeast territory, while it's non-human inhabitants looked on with indifference. Already the cries of his brother were fading behind him.The decision has been made. Stopmouth must save his brother--or die trying. It's partly done out of love, but partly down to insure his own survival in the Tribe--to save himself from being put up for sacrifice the next time the Tribe trades with another for food. Stopmouth's life isn't easy. It's never easy. Brutal. Harsh. Savage. Primitive.
The Armourbacks preferred living prey. When they caught Wallbreaker, they'd drive him home with spears to feed their young. The screams of such captives lasted for days, echoing down streets and over rooftops.
Stopmouth tried not to think about i. 'K-keep running,' he told himself. He leaped barrels of flesh and sprinted into an alley narrow enough to give the pursuers some trouble if they were still on his trail.
Stopmouth realized he couldn't hear his brother any more. He skidded to a halt. The hot air of mid-afternoon stank of blood and rang with the booming howls of fighting or mating Hairbeasts. He could feel his heart battering against his ribs and he leaned his tall frame for support against a crumbling wall. Don't stop. Don't think. Keep running. He wiped his stinging eyes and whispered the name, 'Wallbreaker.' Humanity might survive without his brother, but Stopmouth knew he could not. Wallbreaker had always been the darling of the Tribe. He'd been a sweet child, grown up to be a great hunter, and people would forgive him anything even a half-idiot brother. And they had forgiven always, smiling indulgently through the younger boy's stammers in order to please his handsom sibling.
And yet, if Wallbreaker failed to make it back.... (1-2)
Here is the jacket flap description,
"There is but one law: eat or be eaten. Stopmouth and his family know of no other life than the daily battle to survive. To live they must hunt rival species, or negotiate flesh-trade with those who crave meat of the freshest human kind. It is a savage, desperate existence. And for Stopmouth, considered slow-witted hunt-fodder by his Tribe, the future looks especially bleak. But then, on the day he is callously betrayed by his brother, a strange and beautiful woman falls from the sky. It is a moment that will change his destiny, and that of all humanity, forever."
I just have to interrupt and say that last bit was pure exaggeration. Sure Stopmouth's knowledge of the mystery-woman Indrani changes his own destiny. And yes, it touches a handful of others as well. But all humanity? No. Forever? Not quite. That is unless it's hinting at a future sequel. Who knows it may one day change "all of humanity forever."
Back to the flap,
"With echoes of Tarzan, Conan, and The Truman Show, Peadar O Guilin's debut is an action-and-ideas packed blockbuster that will challenge your perceptions of humanity and leave you hungry for more."
Again I think the ending of this got a bit too grandiose. I think the reader would have been better served without that last paragraph.
Works, doesn't work. Works, doesn't work. I kept going back and forth and back and forth. In a way, The Inferior does work. It's action-packed. It does keep you reading to see who survives and how and why and so forth. The characters--for the most part--are intriguing. Stopmouth especially makes for an interesting hero. Here is where it gets a bit tricky, the "ideas-packed" segments just don't work quite as well. In fact they make me hate (yes, hate) Indrani. And I don't think that was the intent exactly. Uppity. High and mighty. Self-righteous. Haughty. Proud. Smug. All apt descriptors of our supposed heroine. She feels and knows that she is better than everyone around her. She looks down and despises those "savages" around her. And she may technically know more--especially when it comes to technology--but that doesn't make her a better human in my opinion. It makes her annoying. I was rolling my eyes at some of the "ideas-packed" segments that are supposed to "challenge" the readers perception of the world.
'Only savages,' she said, 'eat flesh. Civilized beings eat other things made from plants.'a bit further on she says,
'You can't live on moss and trees! They'd make you sick!'
'I never said we did!' She seemed exasperated. 'There are other plants besides those. Rice, fruit, vegetables. To kill a being and eat its flesh is the most evil and terrible thing a creature can do! It's obscene!' (305, 306)
"'Sometimes I look at you, at your cleverness, all that strength and energy, and I think...I almost think you could be one of us. And then I see you killing. You enjoy it. Don't deny it! I see you kill, and in your own way you're magnificent, but you could never, never be civilized.'and then switching her mockery...
'Because I hunt for food?'
'Partly, yes.' (308)
'Who were those people?' asked Stopmouth again.I actually enjoyed the first half of The Inferior. But the second half was hard to enjoy. The more Indrani opened her mouth, the more I came to hate the book. I honestly don't see why Stopmouth was so head-over-heels in love with her. To the point that he begs her and begs her and begs for good graces, her attention, her love.
Indrani didn't answer at first. She looked sick and afraid, as if her worst nightmares had all come true at once. 'There are plenty who think like them where I come from, Stopmouth. They are people who claim to love spirits more than they love themselves. Some of the fools even mean, I suppose...We have a special word for them: religious.' She pronounced it the way she pronounced the word 'savage,' as if it hurt to speak it. (318)
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews