Rising Tide: This has second-book problems, but is still an engaging read

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsRising Tide by Rajan Khanna fantasy book reviewsRising Tide by Rajan Khanna

Rising Tide is Rajan Khanna’s sequel to his post-apocalyptic novel Falling Skies. Rising Tide follows Ben Gold, airship pilot and one-time scavenger, after the Sick, an engineered virus, has turned humans into living zombies called the Feral. Society and government has collapsed, and people like Ben exist mostly by being loners, but Ben made a connection with an island colony and that changed everything for him.

Rising Tide opens with Ben and his scientist partner Miranda being held captive by Malik on his repurposed battleship. Malik holds a grudge against Ben from a previous heist, but pretty soon the ship is in trouble, and Ben is the only person with a plan.

The book provides lots of action, and Ben’s adventures while Mal holds Miranda hostage expand our view of this world. We meet an information broker holding court in the San Francisco Main Public Library, and a group of paranoid neo-militarists protecting a deadly secret in a Washington state naval base. Once Ben and Miranda escape from Mal, Miranda and her fellow “boffins” or scientists seem to make some progress on the Feral-producing virus, but not before another deadly virus appears.

I liked the new airships in this book and other gadgets like the battleship. The action sequences are crisp if a bit repetitive, and Ben certainly doesn’t lack for enemies. Ben is a man whose whole life has changed dramatically since Falling Skies and in this book he struggles to come to grips with those changes.

The book has classic “second book” problems. The plot is episodic, without enough internal momentum. Many things seem to happen just to set up events for the third book. Certain plot points are telegraphed. Ben, while not very likeable, is an interesting character, though, and I enjoy watching him change.

A bigger problem is an unnecessary point-of-view shift, and this is one thing that drains the momentum. Khanna narrates part of the book from Miranda’s point of view in first-person, via a journal. The sections don’t read like a journal, though. Basically, a journal or a diary in a story has to serve a unique purpose, often letting the reader know that there is information or a perspective that other characters — or the main character — don’t have yet. Miranda tells Ben everything that she recounts in her sections, so this purpose isn’t served. Since first-person Miranda sounds exactly like first-person Ben, the shift is only confusing. The story would have worked better if Miranda’s POV had been in regular third person (if it was needed at all).

All that said, the book is entertaining. Ben continues to grow, the world continues to expand, and we’re well-set-up for a dizzying third book climax to the BEN GOLD trilogy.

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MARION DEEDS, with us since March 2011, is retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

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