A while back I remarked that Jonathan L. Howard’s Johannes Cabal series is one of my favorites, and one I need to return to soon. In looking up the available titles I haven’t gotten yet, I discovered Katya’s World, the first book in a new series he’s written for young adults. Naturally, I felt compelled to read it, and I’m thrilled I did.
Life on Russalka is hard, and the inhabitants grow up quickly beneath the waves of the water planet. After years of isolation, following wars on Earth that isolated the planet, the Russalkans have come to think of themselves as independent. Earth has other plans, though, and now they find themselves defending their planet against incursion.
Katya Kuriakova has grown up on Russalka, and trained to work as a navigator on the submarines used to travel between the undersea colonies and to defend themselves from attackers. This book, the first in a new series, follows her exploits as she embarks on her first missions aboard her uncle’s submarine. Although she’s fifteen, Howard writes her as more mature. As a child of war on an unforgiving planet, her definition of a normal childhood is much different from most people’s but she remains an intriguing character I found very easy to connect with.
As if the perpetual war and harshness of the world wasn’t enough, a mysterious creature is awaking beneath the waves, threatening to destroy everything they’ve built. Howard builds the tension nicely throughout, and makes this book hard to put down. He weaves enough technical detail to match the hardest of traditional Science Fiction, but the book never feels weighted down in description. I haven’t read very extensively in the more tech driven areas of Science Fiction, but I expect those who have read more in that sub-genre will find a lot to enjoy here. Also, fans of Lovecraft will appreciate the mysterious, undulating threat from beneath. As with his Johannes Cabal novels, Howard’s love of Lovecraft is very evident here.
But beyond those elements, I found I was most often reminded of C. S. Forester’s Hornblower novels. The concept of the new soldier or sailor (or in this case, sub-mariner), being put to the test is epitomized by the Hornblower books, and Katya falls nicely into this tradition. She is determined to prove herself in a world that has come to respect bravery and competence, and watching her come into her own in this harsh world was very entertaining.
I’m a voracious reader, and really appreciate writers like Jonathan Howard, who not only give me great books like this to chew on, but who also lead me to thinking about other writers and books I enjoy. After finishing this, I made myself a mini-list of authors like Forester I would read while awaiting the next book in this series. I’m eager for the next book to see how he expands Katya’s world.
Katya’s World is available as an eBook next week, and will be available in hard copy beginning November 13.