War of Rain, by H.W. Vivian, is about a 15 year old girl who was born and raised in the distant future. There had been a great environmental upheaval which had killed off a good part of the human race, and those who were left were still trying to rebuild.
The area in which the main character, Miri, grew up was composed of different villages. Most of people were peaceful, but one, called the Barbarians, was not. Miri came from a center of spirituality, the people from her village were called Rain Gatherers.
The story followed her over the course of a year or so after she kills a Barbarian in defense of one of her fellow villagers.
I enjoyed a lot about this book.
The story was fun, and the concept interesting. There were also quite a few good plot twists.
I was impressed with how Vivian built the world. The religious beliefs and practices were well thought out, as were the Rain Gatherers’ every day lives. The way she figured out how to incorporate rudimentary materials into creating 20th century technology was ingenious.
Writing-wise, the flow was generally rather nice, and there were a few areas of beautiful wording.
I don’t know if it was intentional, but she also touched on a form of racism in the whole Rain Gatherer versus Barbarian dynamic. It may have been a bit clumsy in places, but the fact she used village origin instead of skin color to differentiate peoples was a realistic way of separating groups that isn’t often seen in modern literature.
It opens the door to questions of what exactly what race is, how it’s determined in different times and places and questions of identity. Race is a hot topic here in the US, but it’s important to remember it goes far beyond skin color, especially in the wider world.
For instance, ask an antisemite what “white” is, and the answer will most certainly exclude Jewish people, despite the fact they may share skin color, hair texture and maybe even national origin with thousands of Jewish people.
When books like this one touch on this particular nuance, it brings some of the complexities surrounding the issue to light that are generally ignored otherwise.
As much as I liked the above aspects of the book, there were a few things I didn’t care for.
The characters in general were pretty flat. The Barbarians, with the exception of Philippe, were poorly done, with little depth or interest. They were basically bad for the sake of being bad, which doesn’t make the story all that compelling.
I had a hard time with Miri about halfway through the book, too. She went from being an intriguing character to unbelievable and somewhat boring, because she was too ‘perfect’.
For instance, she went from accidentally killing an attacker to demolishing a group of 70 highly trained fighters over the span of something like one or two fights. She mastered the English language in 2 months, mastered math in weeks and went from not knowing what science was to engineering killer microbes in under a month.
When it comes to fanfiction, I can understand why authors write original characters as being too perfect, but when you’re selling a book, the characters should be interesting enough for the readers to feel engaged with throughout the story.
Unfortunately, the more perfect Miri became, and the more admiring the other characters became of her, the less I wanted to continue reading.
There were also several scenes that should have been cut and some poor writing that could have been fixed, despite the beautiful bits. I had a hard time understanding what the author was trying to convey in a number of places, and found a few words that weren’t used properly.
I also have problems when mental illness is improperly addressed. In the beginning of the book, Miri heard a voice in her head and further on in the book, another character diagnosed her as schizophrenic for that reason alone.
Schizophrenia is far more than simply hearing voices, and that symptom can also indicate other disorders. If authors want to realistically include mental illness or disability with their characters, they must do a lot of research before they start writing.
If I were to rate this on a five star system, I’d give it a solid three out of five. It’s not a terrible book by any means, but it could use some improvement.