Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tsunami Blue, by Gayle Williams - Review

Ripped from the Headlines
I don't know about you, but when I hear the word "tsunami," my head goes to one place immediately-- the devastating southeast Asian tsunami that hit Indonesia the day after Christmas of 2004.

(The second place my head goes is to that surfer-dude episode of Gilligan's Island, which is, I think, where I first encountered the word... what can I say, I'm a child of the 70's).

The plot of Tsunami Blue is reminiscent of Kevin Costner's cinematic flop Waterworld from 1995: the sealevel has risen so that coastal cities are submerged, governments are in chaos, and marauding pirate gangs rule the waters.

Good Stuff
I quite liked Blue's character. Her wistfulness and loneliness come through sharply and the author does a good job of making us understand the level of danger she lives with. It's scary stuff. I also liked the "Tokyo Rose" inspiration, and the idea that Blue is a voice out in the world, bouncing off the moon.

Unlike lots of current popular fiction, the narration in this story is very consistently from Blue's point of view, which leads to uncertainty around the hero's actions and motivations. I think this worked very well for this story-- it really served to keep the reader's emotions and reactions aligned with Blue's. The voicing is strong, steady and appealing-- a big asset for the story.

World-building-- a bit uneven
Generally I like the premise, but the details don't always hold up (as Ciara astutely points out). As a Midwesterner (albeit transplanted) I couldn't help but wonder what was going on further inland. I'm no meteorologist, but as far as I know, tsunamis wouldn't cause a permanent change in the sea level (although of course they can certainly wreck coastal areas), nor would they cause much commotion for say, Iowa or Nevada. Washington DC and NYC might be wiped out but it seems to me that there would be enough government and naval remnants in the world to prevent the wholesale chaos that Williams portrays.

Now, that might be different if, as it says on the blurb (but not, I don't think, in the book) that the world has been transformed to a series of islands. But Williams doesn't give me enough of an event to really believe that. It may be that the details were in there and I skimmed over them, but I spent probably 3/4s of the book assuming that the continental interiors should be mostly intact. I'm still not really sure why they wouldn't be.

The Romance
Here again, I'm going to use the word "uneven." I think all the right ingredients are here, but it didn't quite gel for me. Blue is portrayed as both naive (from her isolation) and street-tough (from her time with her uncle) and somehow they both worked against her feelings for the hero. She distrusts him, but not quite enough... and then when she falls for him, it's also not quite enough-- for me, anyway.

One Other Completely Random Point
Blue is a pretty young character. And the cover model looks very young. My ten-year-old was dying to read it based on the pretty cover and the blurb. In some ways this book seemed like it was struggling to be a YA romance --if it weren't for the graphicness of the violent bits I would've been pretty much OK with handing it over to her.

Reena, linked below, had a similar comment:
Right off the back, I loved the voice—slightly insane, but fully aware. I’m not surprised Dorchester scooped Ms. Williams up. It was also youthful, repetitious at times (you know how young folks are), but done in a way which added flavor to Blue.

Bottom Line
Despite some technical flaws, the storytelling is excellent--I think Gayle Ann Williams is an author to watch. There will be a second book in the "Blue" world, with different characters, due in March of 2011, and I will be checking it out.

Bonus Material
The author has this to say in an article about what inspires her:

On Christmas night, in 2004 I boarded a plane out of Seattle and flew right into the Southeast Asian Tsunami. In the air when the deadly wave hit, I knew that if I had arrived earlier, I might have been a statistic. As I traveled around the region, I listened and observed, hugged and cried, and all along, the writer in me asked, what if?

As I continued to travel in the region over the next few months, I encountered a great deal of sadness. But also, something else. The resilience of the human spirit surfaced and with it, hope. Hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better future. I did not know this at the time, but this experience, this life changing adventure, would become the foundation for TSUNAMI BLUE.
Author website: Gayle Ann Williams

Around the Blogosphere
Check out Caffey's Giveaway
Tez Says
Bitten By Books
Smexy Books
Reena's Blog

There are lots more, because I am super-late in posting this review. Pub date was ages ago-- April, I think. But... better late than never.

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