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Osiris by E.J. Swift

Osiris: The Osiris Project


The writing in Osiris felt very beautiful to me. The story is told at a restrained pace allowing us to get to know and understand the vastly different lives of Adelaide Rechnov and Vikram Bai in the last city left on earth. It’s told in alternating chapters, starting with Adelaide at the ‘service of hope’ for her missing twin Axel. Adelaide is generally estranged from her family but has attended despite being desperately uncomfortable in their company. She’s certain that Axel is still alive, somewhere, and resents the inference that he has committed the unspeakable sin of suicide, as well as the grieving tone of the affair.

The rarefied and privileged world that Adelaide inhabits is spatially and materially distant from Vikram’s existence in the western sector of Osiris. It’s the difference between the haves and the have nots. The west is cold, the people starving and sick, on the wrong side of the militarised border. It wasn’t originally meant to be like this, but a combination of shortages, greed, and fear has created a world split in two.

The execution of Eirik 9968 puts Adelaide and Vikram in the same place at the same time. Vikram was a comrade of Eirik's and has served time in prison too. The awfulness of the underwater experience haunts him, and me. It’s worse than a hell on earth; it’s hell submerged, entombed in a lightless watery featureless box. The execution is awful and claustrophobic; the slow pumping of the water into the chamber is torture for the condemned, the crowd, and the reader. I think I was holding my own breath while I read it. The execution acts as a catalyst. It causes a crack in Adelaide’s uncaring fa├žade, it reignites Vikram’s attempts to bring change to the west, and it stirs up thoughts of violence and rebellion in those with little to lose.

The story moves slowly as the both Adelaide and Vikram pursue their separate agendas. They move toward each other without either fully trusting or understanding the other. There is much to discover, about the city, about the Rechnovs, and how fundamental one is to the other. But even more than the unfolding story, I just loved the writing. I was carried along by it, learning about the characters, watching them struggle with their demons, growing, changing. I found Osiris completely absorbing.

Osiris is the first book in the Osiris Project and is available from Del Rey. The second book, Cataveiro, is also available, and I’m looking forward to reading it very much. I bought Osiris myself from a bookshop.

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