The Apocalypse Ocean, by Tobias Buckell

The Apocalypse Ocean [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] is the fourth book in Tobias Buckell‘s Xenowealth series.

The story behind this book is almost as interesting as the book itself. Buckell talks here about how he used Kickstarter to successfully reboot this series. I haven’t seen the ebook, but I can tell you the hardcover is gorgeous. More about that later, though…

The Apocalypse Ocean continues Buckell’s tradition of blending larger-than-life characters (Pepper and Nashara are back!) and … well, let’s call them “life-sized” characters for comparison. Tiago is a boy doing his best to survive on Placa del Fuego, an island where acidic, flammable rains are only the least of people’s troubles. Placa del Fuego is a dead zone, where little technology functions, and an alien known as the Doaq roams the streets at night, devouring all who oppose it. Tiago is a clever but low-level pickpocket, and his Fagin is Kay, a woman raised and engineered on a hellish alien world who’s determined to run Placa del Fuego for herself. Unfortunately, their island is about to be caught in the middle of a galactic conflict…

It’s been four and a half years since I read and reviewed Sly Mongoose, the previous book in the series, and I stumbled a few times as a result of my own forgetfulness about what had happened. The new book does stand on its own, but it will mean more if you’re familiar with the first three.

You can tell Buckell knows his world and his characters very well, and has spent a lot of time developing both. From the smallest details of the home Tiago shares to the sweeping history and conflicts of the wormhole network, he’s gone beyond surface flash to consider the implications and possibilities of his worldbuilding. The Doaq uses a horrifying but fascinating version of wormhole technology, for example.

All in all, it’s a strong, engaging adventure, one that leaves me hoping for a fifth book in this universe.

As an author myself, I was fascinated by the way this book came about. Buckell has always been near the forefront of publishing, following and analyzing the trends, and doing a good job of taking advantage of new possibilities. So I wasn’t surprised to see him try Kickstarter, nor was I surprised to see him succeed. Physically speaking, this hardcover is as good or even better quality than a lot of what I’ve seen from professional publishers. I did notice a few typos, but nothing that threw me out of the story. Buckell put a lot of work and care into this book, and it shows.