Reviewed by H.
And one lone survivor.
For political exile Taeo Ybanez, this could be his ticket home. Relations between the Antarcticans and the Patagonians are worse than ever, and to be caught on the wrong side could prove deadly.
For pilot and cartographer Ramona Callejas, the presence of the mysterious stranger is one more thing in the way of her saving her mother from a deadly disease.
All roads lead to Cataveiro, the city of fate and fortune, where their destinies will become intertwined and their futures cemented for ever…
The story at first felt rather disconnected to the events of the series opener. This was somewhat frustrating, given how much I enjoyed reading Vikram’s and Adelaide’s story. This does mean that it would probably not be too difficult for a new reader to start here (although, given the quality of Osiris, I would still recommend you read that, too). The many new ideas, locales, and characters made Cataveiro feel like a new beginning. The lack of any form of lengthy recap for the events of the first book, perhaps even suggest that Osiris is unnecessary. An odd decision, but it works. The fact that Vikram remained rather peripheral to the story, for the most part, was also a little disappointing to begin with. The more I read, though, the more invested I became in the new protagonists and their stories.
The author’s prose is as good as before (in fact, better), and the story does a great job of building the readers’ image of this future. It’s difficult to not be impressed by the world-building. Swift offers an engaging explanation of how the “land” world works, and offers commentary on the old ways that led to the environmental disasters that gave rise to this somewhat devastated world. Cataveiro also introduces us to two new characters. Both of them – Ramona and Taeo – are well-realised on the page, and develop nicely over the course of the novel. They are engaging guides to this part of the world.
Overall, Swift has produced another beautifully-written novel. There’s no doubt, also, that Cataveiro is a better novel than Osiris. The pacing is still relatively slow – this is something I struggled with when reading Osiris, and probably my only real criticism of Swift’s debut. The author has addressed this, here, though, making this a much more satisfying, fluid read. Nevertheless, the world, commentary, characters and – above all – story are interesting and engaging enough to keep us reading until the end. Fans of the first novel should definitely take to this sequel, although I’d be surprised if many weren’t similarly thrown by the apparent disregard of the events in Osiris. I’m certainly intrigued to see what happens in the final volume of the trilogy.
Cataveiro – and Osiris – might not be for all sci-fi fans, but there’s no doubt that Swift is a very talented writer, who is honing her craft wonderfully (in these two novels and also her shorter fiction). I expect she will very soon become a real force to be reckoned with. Definitely an author to watch. If you enjoy beautifully-written, literary science fiction, with less focus on being an action-packed blockbuster, then The Osiris Project is a must read.
Also on CR: Interview with E.J. Swift