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The Inferior
Peadar Ó Guilín
David Fickling hardcover £12.99

review by Gary Couzens

Appearances deceive. Although you might guess from the publisher's imprint - if you know your imprints - this is a young-adult novel. The readership is suggested at 12+, though for reasons of length, theme and the level of reader sophistication required, I'd suggest caution with regards to those under 13 or 14. It's also the first of a trilogy, which explains the somewhat abrupt ending, but again you won't be able to tell that from the book. And although Peadar Ó Guilín's first novel comes on looking like fantasy, it's actually SF. (The blurb does contain something of a spoiler in that respect.)

Our hero is Stopmouth, named after the stammer that makes others think him slow-witted, including his own brother. He and his tribe live by hunting other species, many of them non-humanoid and suitably nasty. They also barter their own people - the maimed or elderly - to be eaten by other tribes. Then a mysterious woman, Indrani, arrives.

Ó Guilín plunges us directly into this world without hand-holding: we're expected to piece together the environment, the different tribes and creatures from hints and references, generally keeping pace with Stopmouth. As he makes conceptual breakthroughs, so do we. The author manages to keep us interested in a not always heroic, not always sympathetic central character - his intentions towards Indrani are certainly not entirely honourable. Stopmouth lives in a harsh world, one where the author does not shield us from scenes of violence, let alone a cannibalism theme. It's very much the survival of the fittest.

There are occasional rough spots in the writing, but Ó Guilín keeps up a brisk pace and The Inferior should hold most readers' interest to the end.
The Inferior

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