SFcrowsnest

Floodtide by Helen Claire Gould (book review)

The icy planet of Naxada is about to undergo catastrophic changes due to volcanic activity and impending meteor strikes. A team of scientists has been studying the planet in its final months but, as the project draws to a close, they discover two tribes of humanoid aliens living in the lava caves beneath the surface. As the team tries to save them, one geologist, Jordas Krata, discovers that he has a telepathic link with one of the tribesmen, Yado. Struggling against a flood of someone else’s emotions, Jordas must work with the tribes to convince them of the problem, stop them from killing each other and get them safely evacuated. Meanwhile, his boss has discovered irregularities in the financing of the operation and, with funds disappearing seemingly at random, the race is on to be able to fund the rescue trip before everyone is trapped on the dying planet.

‘Floodtide’ by Helen Claire Gould has been sitting on my reviewing pile for some time now, largely because of the seriously off-putting nature of the awful cover art. Honestly, it’s one of the worst I’ve ever seen and is a prime example of why cover art matters. I would avoid this book based on the cover alone and wouldn’t even read the blurb if I saw it on a shelf in a bookshop.

Once you get past the cover, however, there are some interesting ideas inside. While the over-arching storyline of how the scientists are trying to save the indigenous population is carried fairly well, this book is really about the relationship between Jordas, Yado and Yado’s new wife, Soolkah. When Jordas first discovers he’s linked to Yado, he feels all kinds of sensations and they’re at their most intense when Yado and Soolkah are being intimate with one another. It’s quite interesting watching Jordas get over his conservative tendencies and move towards embracing a relationship involving more than one other person. In the tribes, brothers are all linked and share one wife between them so it’s all perfectly normal to Yado and Soolkah. While I found it an interesting relationship to follow, it did become a bit preachy at times towards the acceptance of relationships between multiple people and I think it could have been toned down a fair bit. Saying the same things repeatedly doesn’t help get the message across in a novel and it ended up taking time away from some of the other elements of the story that would have benefitted from extra development.

I enjoyed learning more about the dynamics within the tribes and Gould has taken time to provide a bit of background about how these dynamics developed, so it felt like we were visiting a realistic world with unique history, culture and folklore. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough time spent with the different tribal groups, so that when we did see more than just the three main characters, it often became confusing because there were too many unfamiliar names of characters that appeared out of nowhere. I feel that more time could have been spent developing a few more of the secondary characters, both tribespeople and the scientists who weren’t on Naxada. They felt quite two-dimensional and it meant that the secondary plotline about the political corruption and disappearing funds really didn’t build any tension. It was all obvious who the villains were and even the ‘surprise’ betrayal of one of the scientists really didn’t elicit any kind of emotional response. It was all side-lined in the author’s eagerness to promote the central relationship between Jordas, Yado and Soolkah.

I think that this is a self-published first novel, so I’m not sure what kind of editing process this has been through. However, I think many of the points I found disappointing would have been fixed by a thorough edit, paring back on some of the repetition and encouraging development of other characters and plotlines instead. There are some great ideas here and an interesting new world with a well-developed culture, but a lot of it is wasted and not explored to its full potential because there’s just too much focus on the sexual side of the main characters’ relationships. Over all, an ok read, but not a book I can see making it onto many people’s favourites lists.

Vinca Russell

June 2017

(pub: Helen Claire Gould Books, 2015. 368 page paperback. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-99308-121-7)