Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Kingdom of Four Rivers: A Review

Guy Salvidges' Kingdom of Four Rivers [now also at Amazon Kindle] is a post apocalyptic novel set about 300 years after a collapse, and about 400 years from the present. If you click onto the book link, you can buy an e-copy for $2, which is what I did. It is a very fair bargain for a full length novel.  I was interested in his Yellow Cake Spring novel, but it does not seem to be available yet.

Guy Salvidge was born in England, but has lived in Australia since he was nine. He started his writing career young wining a number of awards. This novel is his first published work. He has occasional blog where he reviews and covers science fiction literary topics. For his day job, he works as an High School English at teacher at Northam Senior High School in Western Australia. Northam is just inland of Perth which sits on the Indian Ocean side of the Australian Continent. To me, the school looks like the Australian version of Hogwarts, if Harry Potter were Australian:
Northam Senior High School

The Kingdom of Four Rivers is definitely after apocalypse.  There is a tiny remnant, possibly 1 or 2% hanging on living under screening energy dooms that keep the climate temperate inside.  Outside the previously temperate portion of what is presumably China the jungle marches up to the very edges of the remaining towns.

The story begins with a trading family that is a little down on its luck.  They have made a dangerous jungle passage to a neighboring town with their three wagons, only to find that demand for their agricultural products is low.

When a fellow trader offers them a chance to go to the old deserted capital of Shulao in search of some deeper areas that have not yet been scavenged, they feel they must take on this risky venture.

The traders are not complete rustics.  The older patriarch, and his daughter are both able to read, and somewhat understand the old writing.  They cannot repair the old technology, but they can generally figure out the simpler devices uses.

And that is about as far as I can take you without spilling spoilers all over the place.  There are many wheels within wheels.  Although it is not hammered over your head, there is a bit of conflict between the various high aspirations of what life should be, and the practical realities and limitations of what life actually can offer.

The world and characters are very well developed.  I do not recall anything that was overly graphic or sexually charged, so I don't think it would be beyond the bounds of a mature YA.   I occasionally got the names a little confused, but that settles down about half-way through the book.  There are a number of plot twists and surprises that I found to be enjoyable.  For people looking for a how to guide on post apocalyptic living, there probably is not a whole lot of practical hands-on advice:  just a little practical wisdom.

Guy Salvidge


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this great review of The Kingdom of Four Rivers. This really made my day. Yellowcake Springs has just been released in ebook form on Amazon:

It's a little more expensive ($9.99) because the publisher sets the price, not me. Anyway, maybe you can download the free sample and try that. Again, great review!

russell1200 said...

I am glad you liked the review.

The biggest problem I had was relating it to the other books that where more apocalypse-in-progress, versus post-apocalyptic. Your book has a little bit of the collapse still going on, but it has mostly settled down to a grand old (jungle version) dystopian future.

My little boy (age 7) is wanting to ask Santa Clause to get him an invitation to Hogwarts. LOL. Thus my ready associations to Harry Potter.

$9.99 I think is a reasonable price. I will usually go up to $12.99 on e-books. Obviously when trying someone the first time it is a little easier to take the plunge at a lower price.

For the Australian authors, the e-book is so much easier to get hold of anyway. To get hold of Red Queen was such a headache because it was not released in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

I should be able to get a copy of Red Queen myself. I was reading a few of your reviews last night and I found them very interesting. I will link to your site on my own website and blog.

russell1200 said...

I mostly read non-fiction. But when I shifted to the apocalypse in progress theme (except for the militia books, it does not have a unified style enough to make it a genre) I intentionally tried to pick some books that were a little different than the norm. The advantage of an award winning Australian novel (to my point of view) is that even if it is not to my taste, it is not going to be without some merit (I hate completely negative reviews), and even a dedicated post-apocalyptic reader from the U.S. (like the Jim at Bison Survival is not likely to have read it).

What is nice about review posts is that they don't date themselves. Before I purchased I generally tried to look at reviews first. There are a number of review heavy sites (Amazon being one), but the individual bloggers usually have a heavier commitment to their effort. So I am putting hits on reviews for "Greybeard" and the like.

In the summary, I tried to make sure to note that "readability" + realism don't equal "value". Some genre are simply more readable then others.

The value in Red Queen is the exploration of a light boat scenario within a disaster setting. The fact that it won a horror-fiction award, when it really is not what I would call a horror novel, says something for the tension she is able to create.

I did pick up a copy of your yellow cake. Since I can read fiction fairly quickly I should be getting to it relatively soon. There are only a couple of books I have already started.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Russell - I look forward to seeing whether you liked Yellowcake Springs more or less than The Kingdom of Four Rivers.