Author: Mary Baader Kaley
Publisher: Angry Robot Books
- ISBN: 9781915202154
- Published: January 2023
- Pages: 400
- Format reviewed: E-Book
- Review date: 16/01/2023
- Language: English
When the apocalypse happens, science fiction has taught us that some of us will run below and others will be left on the surface. Pick a side. Down below could be a Fallout or Wool situation, better than being on the surface, dead or a mutant. Up above could be The Time Machine or Mary Baader Kaley’s Burrowed. H.G Well’s suggested a future where up above is best, but like Burrowed it is worth looking twice. The Morlocks were breeding the Eloi for food, and what of the Subterraneans and the Omniterraneans? Zuzan may have been forced below, but when a deadly disease is killing the above, is she in the best place to survive?
Society has split. The strong live on the surface, whilst the weak are forced below for their own safety. Weak immune systems mean that contained underground bases are the best chance for the Subters to survive. Zuzan is considered one of the most vulnerable and with her burrow mates they are not expected to live a long life. However, the likes of Zuzan may have weak bodies, but they have strong minds and a sense of survival. When a deadly plague threatens to annihilate the Omniters, Zuzan and her kind may be their only chance of survival.
Science Fiction and Fantasy can feel like distinctive styles of novel, but sometimes a Sci Fi book will take on the epic journey qualities of a Fantasy title. Burrowed starts like a classic coming of age Fantasy, but in a futuristic livery. We have the put upon Zuzan and she must find her place in the world. Even within the world of the Subters she is considered strange, her lack of hair and poor eyesight, but they do not know of her powerful memory or empathy. With her unique skills Zuzan sets out on a journey.
In places Burrowed is not an easy read. Zuzan is persecuted and does not find her place until later in the book. One burrow is particularly cruel, her short stay there will leave her physically and phycological scarred. The book settles in one location in the second half, but the journey there is not forgotten. Zuzan finds herself in a place where she can help the babies of the Omniters, who have been dying at only a few months old. The politics must be overcome as well as the disease. Zuzan will learn more about her colleagues and her enemies.
The story is told exclusively from Zuzan’s viewpoint, but Baader Kaley builds the world with what Zuzan learns. As the story evolves Zuzan becomes less naïve as we all learn about what is going on in the wider world. The relationship between the Subters and Omniters is key to the story, Zuzan must decide if she wants to fight those that have oppressed her or save innocent lives.
With the coming of age feel to the story, in places Burrowed felt like a younger fantasy title, but there is a darkness that makes it an adult book. The ordeals that Zuzan go through are not light and the medical experiments of the second half are not always easy to stomach. A room full of ill babies is upsetting to read about. The journey style of the first half with the static second half, marry a little oddly, like two novels into one, but it does give a chance for some interesting world building as we learn more about the wider burrows and the above. An enjoyable read for lovers of apocalyptic fiction and those that like their characters to solve complex problems.
Written on 16th January 2023 by Sam Tyler .