book: hurricane fever


Hurricane Fever has an interesting origin. Tobias Buckell’s previous thriller, Arctic Rising, featured a minor character, Caribbean secret agent Prudence Jones, nicknamed Roo. This time, he gets his own star vehicle, quite literally, in his own high-tech catamaran and a stormy thrill ride through the Caribbean.

Buckell’s novel takes place in the near future, cleverly not nailed down to a year, instead approximated to the slightly more vague indicators such as that Tesla Roadsters have become “vintage.” Buckell’s future also has some interesting visions of the future. The Caribbean islands have joined up to create one big state, sea levels have risen, Category Five hurricanes are a regular occurrence and no one owns a petrol car anymore. If some of this sounds familiar to techno-thriller readers, however, that’s just the start. In fact, Hurricane Fever features just about every cliché you can think of for a novel like this. Here’s a taster:

-The interrupted retirement
-The death in the family makes it personal
-The mysterious female
-The token plot device lackey
-The computer chip with dangerous secrets
-The late, world-threatening twist
-The world-threatening superweapon
-The monologuing villain
-The last-second showdown

Many of the clichéd elements do draw from the tension of the story. You’re always pretty certain how it all will end, and some of the secondary characters are sketchy at best.

Still, despite the many formulaic and often predictable elements and developments, Hurricane Fever still manages to be genuinely readable. Buckell shows great flair in executing the plot and his writing elevates the formula, especially in the sea-bound storm descriptions and the various ways people meet their fate; the most vivid, violent and gripping includes an especially inventive use of a spear gun.

Also intriguing and refreshing is the locale. It’s fun to get a vision of the Caribbean that isn’t medieval or slightly barbaric in nature, but evolved, slightly futuristic and with a strong sense of self-identity and pride. It’s a viewpoint not often presented, and it certainly lends Hurricane Fever an air of novelty and invention, however slightly.

Furthermore, Roo becomes an empathetic character, in part because Buckell makes sure to do his groundwork on him before he gets thrown into the more predictable parts of the story. That results in his journey becoming much more exciting than the base ingredients paint it out to be, and so Hurricane Fever should be a worthwhile pick-up for all techno-thriller genre fans.



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