Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Gates of Hell

Last summer I picked up a book in a small indie bookshop in Bala. The cover art was terrible and the title could have been better, but it was a disaster story set in Wales, mildly SFnal, and I thought I might give it a try. It's taken a while to get around to reading it, but a couple of weeks ago I started on The Gates of Hell by Geraint V Jones and I've just finished reading it.
And, you know, it was pretty darn good. There were a few rough edges here and there, but it kept me turning the pages and, well, it was kind of refreshing to see the end of the world through the eyes of the residents of a small North Wales village instead of via presidents, journalists and soldiers living in LA or NYC. There was some Welsh language in here (always translated in the notes) and this was nice, because I'm a bit of a sucker for the poetry of the Welsh tongue, even though I don't know any of it beyond the dual language road signs like dim parcio (no parking) and araf (slow). Some of the place names were changed of course, but I'm guessing it was set somewhere around Blaenau Ffestiniog - I'd love to know where for sure because I spent a lot of the book trying to guess locations.
Some locations were specifically mentioned though: My own home on the Wirral peninsular, for one, was portrayed as a deserted and waterlogged wasteland. I almost felt like giving the helicopter a thumbs-up as it flew past with the main protagonist inside - I don't recall the Wirral ever appearing in a Science Fiction book before.
What particularly won me over was the realism of the eventual global disaster, especially the false hope and anticlimax in the days immediately after the asteroid slammed down into the Antarctic. Probably this had much to do with the way the catastrophe was seen through the eyes of ordinary people living in an ordinary small village.
So yes, it had it faults, but I was more than happy to ignore them because this was a most entertaining read.

The Gates of Hell
Geraint V Jones
publ. Gwasg Carreg Gwalch

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