‘Ruin’s Wake imagines a world ruled by a totalitarian government, where history has been erased and individual identity is replaced by the machinations of the state. As the characters try to save what they hold most dear – in one case a dying son, in the other secret love – their fates converge to a shared destiny’
Ruin’s Wake is Patrick Edwards’ debut, and I would describe it as a short-but-sweet dystopic novel, that never feels fully formed. The world is he creates is ruled by a totalitarian government (think Big Brother), with history erased and a present built on fear and propaganda. We follow three characters – an abused wife, an outcast soldier and a history professor – all of whom share a rebellious characteristic and the dream of an escape.
Of all the narrators, my favourite would have to be Sulara Song, professor and seeker of truth. Her narrative is told through diary/work entries as she uncovers parts of history that could topple society, which she delivers in a refreshingly unsentimental way. You get the sense that she is most-likely autistic, and she’s a practical and robust character who, in my opinion, didn’t get enough page-time to develop fully. The one annoyance was, perhaps in a slack-handed attempt at deepening the character, that she is ‘thawed’ by sex with the right man. This was totally unnecessary, and was shoe-horned in (I think) to tie up the end neatly. This aside, she strikes an interesting viewpoint that I looked forward to reading throughout the book.
In contrast, Edwards has the more emotional character of Kelbee, trapped in an abusive arranged marriage and striving to be free with the man she loves, all for the sake of their illicit baby. We see into Kelbee’s mind through a more immediate style, in an attempt to make her a more immediately sympathetic character, but I found her stereotypical, predictable and a bit dull. Her part of the plot is necessary to show the government from more of an inside perspective, but there is a lot of focus on how she feels rather than her actually doing anything to spur on the narrative.
Our third character, Cale, is the classic strong, silent, brooding type that is again very predictable. He is the only male perspective in terms of narrator that we get, but his story takes up the majority of the book, and I found it dragging – a lot of feeling sorry for himself, quick bursts of prosaic action, then back to feeling sorry. I found him so unmemorable that, despite only finishing the book a week ago, I had to look back to remember his name. The only plus side to Cale’s narrative was his limbless mercenary companion who was far more interesting and individual than anyone else in the whole book.
Ruin’s Wake had some really great potential as a dystopic sci-fi, but I felt it wasn’t quite fully realised. The characters fell flat and more focus was needed to develop the world around them rather than on their small emotions. What snippets there were, were interesting and with further work could have been fantastic. Unfortunately, as it is it is just another dystopia churned out in unoriginal prose.
Ruin’s Wake is published by Titan Books and is available here.
Patrick Edwards lives in Bristol and has never grown out of his fascination with science and the future. In 2014, he decided to give writing a go and graduated from the Bath Spa Creative Writing MA with distinction. His first novel, Ruin’s Wake, was inspired by the works of Iain M. Banks and modern-day North Korea.
Reviewed by Amber Mears Brown
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