Back on release day I shared the synopsis of The Salvation Project here.
About the Author
Stewart was born in Buckinghamshire and educated in Oxford, Berkhamsted, Exeter, Bristol, and Orlando, Florida. He taught at a variety of institutions in Sri Lanka, the Middle East, the USA, and Britain before becoming a full-time writer in 1989.
With over 300 published titles to his credit, he is now one of Britain’s most popular and versatile authors. His output includes prize-winning books for younger readers, novels, plays, three librettos, a musical, and many widely acclaimed works on history and sport. Several of his books are illustrated with his own photographs.
Stewart also lectures in France and the UK, gives talks, runs workshops, and visits schools. He is an occasional journalist and broadcaster. His brother, Charlie Ross, is the celebrated auctioneer.
In his spare time Stewart enjoys travel, restaurants, sport, theatre, photography, art and music. He lives near Canterbury with his wife Lucy, and – occasionally – his four children and two grandchildren. Each morning he commutes 10 metres to work in a large hut in the garden.
Book 1- The Soterion Mission
This is a high concept series whose central concept had me spooked. What if there was a virus that mutated DNA. So you cure the symptoms, think everything is okay and then suddenly human kind changes – they don’t survive beyond 19 years and age rapidly in their ‘Death Month’.
When reading the first book in the series which jumps around 120 years into the future I thought it read like a cross between Lord of the Flies, Mad Max and The Walking Dead (minus zombies). Think the Saviours versus Rick’s gang.
The Soterion of the title is a legendary store of knowledge. Books of the Long Dead. Roxanne is the only literate character having been taught to read through the three books that survive in her community – Peter Pan, a short biography of Cleopatra and The IKEA catalogue 😂😂😂. She joins up with Cyrus to find the Soterion and together they battle solar electricity worshipping Gova and blood thirsty Zeds.
There are lots of new terms introduced in the book and I felt a Glossary would have been helpful. And lo and behold or appears in the back of the second and third books. The use of some modern day vernacular such as cronies and bloke sounded strange in this new world.
I enjoyed the theme of exploring how we pass down history and knowledge and guide the next generation.
The book’s point of view is from an unnamed Omniscient narrator and I did find this a bit jarring because we jumped into so many characters minds. I’m less used to this POV nowadays and it was less noticeable in the second book.
Those readers who don’t like Instalove will be less enamoured with the romance aspect of the book. But I guess if you only survive to 19 you need to get in there quick.
It was interesting to read that this was initially published as a serial and I could see remnants of this in the way scenes ended with hooks. Although at times these meant that the reader was given an indication of what was to come perhaps a little earlier than I’d have liked.
If you like your dystopias fast paced and gory then you will enjoy the action scenes in this. Personally I felt the action was stronger than the dialogue and I could really see this as a graphic novel.
Book 2 – Revenge of the Zeds
Despite the two lead females in the first book women had a much more basic role in the first book. Mainly as breeders of the species.
Therefore I enjoyed the second book much more because we are introduced to a female led gang of Zed Warriors called the Kogon. There’s also a bit of diverse representation here with their leader Xsani both a lesbian and presented with a lisp. No impediment to her rise to power. The uneasy alliance between her and a character called Sakamir was fun to read.
The Soterion has been found in this book and that allows the theme of what books are for to come through. There were two quotes in particular that I highlighted.
‘All that reading’s not good for you. It gets you thinking too much, and that’s not healthy.’
‘Did books reflect the real world, like an image in a mirror? Or was the world around him a reflection of the ideas in books.’
The other themes that get a lot more exploration is the concept of ageing and death with conflicting opinions on whether The Salvation Project to find a cure to the mutation should be enacted.
Book 3 – The Salvation Project
Our reliance on technology in the present comes to the fore in this book where key to The Salvation Project lies in a laptop. With flat batteries, and no ready source of electricity – dare they head back to face the Gova. Is growing old worth it?
Check out the other stops on the blog tour to see how the series concludes. And head over to Goodreads to enter the giveaway – closes today.
A MYSTERY NO ONE CAN SOLVE
The Vanishings started without warning. People disappearing into thin air – just piles of clothes left behind. Each day, thousands gone without a trace.
A BABY NO ONE WANTED
Max was abandoned in a bookshop and grows up haunted by memories of his parents. Only he can solve the mystery of the Vanishings.
A SECRET THAT COULD SAVE THE FUTURE
To find the answers, Max must leave this world and enter the Beginning Woods. A realm of magic and terror, life and death.
But can he bear the truth – or will it destroy him?
A STORY THAT WILL TAKE YOU TO ANOTHER WORLD
Greater than your dreams. Darker than your fears. Full of more wonder than you could ever desire. Welcome to the ineffable Beginning Woods…
What I Thought
When I found out about this book it sounded right up my street and I was really intrigued by the premise of vanishing people.
I feel really bad that this review is coming well after the release date but for some reason it seemed to take me a whole month to read this book, and I don’t think that’s entirely the book’s fault. Everytime I picked it up I enjoyed what I was reading – I even took it along to the beach to read a few chapters.
The language in this was so good, and I’m pretty sure there are a few more words in the world after this book, such as ‘psychomotherapractologisteopath’.
The mystery of the opening where people are vanishing and Max is trying to find out what is happening was intriguing, and the Book House setting was particularly appealing.
When the action shifted from the World to The Beginning Woods it threw me off I think, and I also got a little confused about which reality the action was taking place in at times, but I think that’s because I was reading it in bits.
Max’s search for his forever parents and his constant question ‘who am I’ didn’t resolve in quite the way I expected – which isn’t a bad thing.
My favourite relationship in the book was between Max and Martha – the ghost girl he befriends. It reminded me a little of the graphic novel Saga.
The book has been compared to Gormenghast and Labyrinth, neither of which I’ve actually read, though I have seen. I think those are fair comparisons and there is definitely an element of the surreal in The Beginning Woods.
I couldn’t decide whether to give this 3 or 3.5 stars and if you like fantasy that gets you thinking about the meaning of reality then I would recommend it. I think my brain wasn’t in the right headspace for the slightly more challenging read that this was.
I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.