Thursday, 8 November 2012

Katya's World - Jonathan L Howard

Katya's World is a Young Adult novel by Jonathan L Howard, who is best known for his books about Johannes Cabal the infamous necromancer. I don't normally read YA books as they don't really work for me, but I wanted to give this one a try since I enjoyed the writer's previous work so much. Many thanks to Angry Robot Books and Strange Chemistry for providing me with a review copy of Katya's World.

The exposition reveals some interesting world building where humans have spread out in the universe in a never ending thirst for resources. One of the planets colonised was a world entirely covered in water, but the rich mineral deposits lurking under the surface still made it worth the effort. The result, a world where everyone lives under water and loads of submarines. Unfortunately, a war with Earth takes a heavy toll and there is a lot of rebuilding to do when we enter the story. This is Katya's World.

I like the exposition. It's not that common with under water worlds, at least not where the main part of the plots takes place on one. We join Katya as she is about to board her uncle's submarine on her first journey as an actual crew member instead of just as a passenger. Katya is fresh out of the academy and is now a navigator.

I could totally sympathise with her fears of not being taken seriously by the port official overseeing their launch. I remember my first day at a real job all too well. It's a rite of passage.

Instead of a simple cargo drop their submarine is commandeered by the authorities to transport a prisoner. A seasoned reader can tell, this, is how an adventure starts. There might be pirates!

For me this is also where my normal fears about YA were realised. It's simply a matter of credibility and realism, and Jonathan L Howard does not deliver on either. A child fresh out of school without any real work experience, no matter her grades, just can't dominate a room full of seasoned adults. It's just ludicrous, to borrow an expression from my favourite dragon, Duncan Bannatyne. Every clever decision, every bold move, is from now on decided by Katya. The adults are mere meat shields and muscle to deal with the physical threats a young person is incapable of.

Even though I liked the world building, and found the story exciting to start with I just lost interest. I wanted to like it, but it's just not for me. Lesson learned. Don't let this stop you from reading Katya's World if you normally read a lot of YA. Jonathan L Howard is a talented writer whose wit has entertained me many a time.

Katya's World weighs in at 350 pages and is published by Strange Chemistry.

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