cover image BLOODTIDE


Melvin Burgess, . . Tor, $24.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-7653-0048-5

Careening into civilized sensibilities like a wild boar in rut, this dystopian vision takes its cue from the fierce opening of the Old Norse Volsunga saga, a tale of betrayed trust and love, twisted loyalties and revenge heaped upon bloody revenge. In the near future, Britain's government has founded new cities of law-abiding citizens, separated by eerie zones full of genetically engineered "halfmen" from abandoned crime-ridden enclaves like ruined London, where two rival gangs plot to conquer one another—and then the world. British author Burgess (Smack) tells this grim tale from several viewpoints centered on "King" Val Volson's 14-year-old twins, Siggy and Signy. Hoping to unite London, Val marries an unwilling Signy to his enemy, Conor, but Conor treacherously kills Val and two of his sons. Signy, like an Arctic volcano with deadly fire smoldering in its depths, contrives Siggy's escape to fuel her ruthless vengeance. Given such a gory framework, Burgess's development of sympathetic characters is as surprising as it is convincing. Rapidly shifting perspectives and deft dialogue expose minds as frighteningly real as growly gangsta rap and as unexpectedly compassionate as unconditional animal love, pivoting on Old Norse gods—or are they constructs of genetic breeding tanks?—who watch but cannot change the weaving of human fate. Alfather Odin and the trickster god Loki give both twins gifts, but in this tortured world, one gladly embraces fatal madness, while the other learns from the humblest of creatures how to become truly human. Burgess leaves in sorrowful question who suffers the more. (Nov. 3)