The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey
Orbit, pb, £8.99
Reviewed by Ian Hunter
This is the first book of Mike Carey’s Rampart trilogy with book 3, the gloomy-sounding, The Fall of Koli, due to be published this year. The series is set in the future where wars and climate change have taken their toll. What is left of mankind struggles to survive in a world where trees and plants have been genetically modified in the past to help save the planet, and are now the dominant species, hunting mankind. But there are enemies closer to hand as teenager Koli Woodsmith finds out.
Koli lives in Mythen Rood, a little village overseen by the Ramparts, who are all from the same family and have access to old technology which help them to maintain their position and keep the villagers in check. When Koli becomes 15, he must undertake the Waiting and decide what he is going to do with his life. He decides to take the Rampart test and has to reawaken some old technology. He fails and, in his frustration, steals some tech housing an AI which leads him to be banished by the Ramparts who see him as a threat and he is exiled to the dangerous world beyond the village.
The Book of Koli is a book of two halves, both told from the viewpoint of Koli. His distinctive language which is similar to ours so isn’t too difficult to understand after the first few pages. The first half of the book is almost safe and cosy because this is about Koli within the village and while there are revelations and frustrations, Koli is inside the confined world that he knows. The second half takes him outside the village into a new, and more deadlier world. He has to use his wits to survive the deadly environment around him, which also includes other people who are worse than the Ramparts, and every bit as bad as the whispers and rumours led him to believe. He has the AI called Monono with him to help, and also the reluctant aid of an old doctor determined to solve the birth-rate problem. But Koli may need more as Carey ramps up the action, and the tension, and events slip into the dark side.
The Book of Koli is thought-provoking and highly entertaining with a lead character that the reader gets to care about and a sidekick AI that is a wonderful creation. I look forward to reading the rest of the series if the trees don’t get me first.