Tuesday 20 March 2018

Smoke Eaters by Sean Grigsby

The basic premise for Smoke Eaters (out now from Angry Robot) is an enticing one - Fire Fighters vs Dragons. I always like it when an author does something a bit different with genre favourites and fighting fire with firemen certainly does that.

The setting is America, a century from now and many parts of it are uninhabitable due to the rise of dragons (and the reason the dragons are up and about actually makes a lot of sense, it's to do with sleep cycles). Our hero is Cole Brannigan, a fireman just days away from retirement. On a callout to a fire he comes face to face with a dragon and, in trying to rescue his team finds he is one of the few not affected by dragon smoke.

This quickly leads to him waving goodbye to his retirement plans and being conscripted into the titular Smoke Eaters, the guys and gals with all the best toys, whose job is to tackle the dragons and the fires they cause. Seeing Cole go from being a seasoned veteran to becoming a rookie recruit is handled well. He knows his stuff but quickly has to learn his place.

Now, if it were just fire fighters v dragons it would probably be enough but, just to add an extra arm to the story there is trouble with City Hall and a corrupt mayor who is happy to line his own pockets while putting the lives of countless civilians at risk.

One thing that really stands out, for me, is the technical side of the story. Grigsby is himself a fire fighter and, obviously, he puts a lot of what he knows into the fire fighting scenes but it is done in a way that is understandable for the reader without leaving them to get bogged down in technical jargon.

So, there are dragons galore, of various shapes and sizes (and the Boss Level dragon towards the end is a phenomenal creation) on one side, City Hall on the other but at least with those Brannigan has a chance of winning the battle, even if it is the slimmest of slim chances. There is one battle he will never win though... just wait until you meet the formidable Mrs. Brannigan.

I know it's only March but this has to be a contender for Book of the Year. An excellent debut by an author I will certainly be keeping an eye on.

Highly Recommended

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