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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Firewalkers by Adrian Tchaikovsky review (reviewed by Łukasz)



Official Author Website
Order Firewalkers over HERE(USA) or HERE (UK)




AUTHOR INFORMATION: Adrian Tchaikovsky was born in Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire before heading off to Reading to study psychology and zoology. For reasons unclear even to himself he subsequently ended up in law and has worked as a legal executive in both Reading and Leeds, where he now lives. Married, he is a keen live role-player and occasional amateur actor, has trained in stage-fighting, and keeps no exotic or dangerous pets of any kind, possibly excepting his son. Catch up with Adrian at www.shadowsoftheapt.com for further information about both himself and the insect-kinden, together with bonus material including short stories and artwork. 

FORMAT/INFO: Firewalkers is 185 pages long and is a standalone book. The book is currently available in all formats. It was published in May 2020 in the UK by Bantam Press and in April 2020 in the USA by Tor.

OVERVIEW: After devouring Tchaikovsky’s Dogs of War, I promised myself to read more of his books. A wise decision. Not only is he one of the most versatile and prolific fiction authors at the moment, but he also delivers every single time. 

In Firewalkers, he looks at the world devastated by climate collapse, and its social and economic consequences. The ultra-rich escape the wastelands and enjoy wealthy lives in the space. The poor left behind try to survive on Earth. Firewalkers maintain infrastructure and repair solar panels in the deserts. They’re expendable, and many of them never return from their missions. The world after the climate collapse is hot. Like 140F/60C hot. Firewalkers’ job wreaks bodies and minds. They’re doing their best to survive and keep their humanity even though they have no hope for a better tomorrow.

Make no mistake - it’s not a hopeful book. It’s bleak, gritty and depressing. It’s also so damn unfair. Firewalkers die serving people who ruined the Earth but can afford to pack their families and enjoy luxuries elsewhere. 

The story follows a team of three close friends, who can earn a lot of money by doing a dangerous job. They need to identify and repair the source of power supply disruptions that influence the work of the air conditioner units of the city’s hotel for the rich. The team enters the abandoned underground ruins of human civilization. Their discovery is shocking and deals with science and technology getting out of control. I can’t get into details lest there be spoilers.

Think of Firewalkers as of hard sci-fi with a soul. It focuses on science and technology but never forgets about characters and their interactions. Additionally, it paints a cynical vision of a stratified society in which caring for others rarely happens. I found it fascinating and disturbing in equal measures. The poor live in hovels, often sharing a single room between the whole family. Most of them die of skin cancer long before they reach their forties. 

The three protagonists, Mao, Lupé, and Hotep are likable, although I found Hotep most interesting and Mao the least interesting of the three. And that’s a problem since we follow the story mostly through Mao‘s POV. The other thing that irked me was the tiring use of a slang mixing all the languages of the city. An interesting and realistic choice, but at times difficult to enjoy. 

Despite its minor flaws, Firewalkers is a quality science-fiction gem. Tchaikovsky weaves an all-too-plausible tale of environmental collapse and its consequences. He has something intelligent to say even while keeping the action junkies satisfied. 


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