by Justin Attas
In Strand: The Silver Radio we met Quincy Famino who lives with his Uncle, Percy, in a dystopian world of three layers. Each inhabitant of Strand is assigned a value based on their skills and through various means of testing. Quincy does not fit; he’s disaffected, disruptive and will not conform - all of which means he is likely to be ‘downshipped’ to the Nether Layer. However, he then hears a voice coming from an old silver radio in his late parents’ bedroom…
Strand: The Silver Radio is an unusual novel, full of creativity and considered writing. It’s a good debut and Mr Attas is a gifted writer whose passion for the world of Strand and Quincy is obvious; there has been a lot of care taken in writing this novel and there is some really good stuff here. The world of Strand with its three layers has been painstakingly thought out but, especially in the beginning, this does not translate to the reader. It is a touch dense, there needed to be more definition and/or simplification of Strand. Personally, I felt dropped into the novel and a little clarification would have helped. Nonetheless, as the book progresses, the complexities are ironed out and the entire concept becomes much stronger. I really enjoyed the augmentation angle and thought the Bolt Rangers were well-imagined and realised. However, the story is really led by Quincy. In many ways, he also begins the novel needing a little more exposition as he does feel one-dimensional and just a rather irritating and frustrating teenager. Once he finds the radio, he begins to mature, even if he does not realise it and, consequently, the plot also begins to evolve. Quincy is an artist and I thought the scene in Silvereach where he draws a sketch using the sooty filth from the bar was really inspired. I grew to really like him; he develops and you gain a sense of his purpose and motivation which was lacking in the early stages. It was a good idea to change perspective at Chapter 14 and by Chapter 16 the book moves up a gear which is ably assisted by the introduction of the Pirate Regis Corman; he is brilliant, especially his dialogue. Strand: The Silver Radio comes alive when Corman is in focus and the last quarter of the book is much stronger with quite an unexpected ending.
Personally, aside from some structural issues, I thought the writing quality was excellent; editing was faultless and there was a real seam of poetry running through the narrative. I also thought the illustrations were a sweetly personal inclusion. Once Mr Attas found confidence and clarity, Strand: The Silver Radio becomes an intriguing, interesting and well-written novel and I would definitely read more. Recommended.