Book Review: The Goddess Project by Bryan Wigmore

The thought occurred to me the other day that Snowbooks acquired two new authors last year. Two, out of what was most likely hundreds or perhaps even thousands of submissions. And it tickles me unendingly that those two authors are me, and Bryan Wigmore.

To give that a bit of context, Bryan and I are both authors from the ever brilliant, and increasingly influential, SFF Chronicles community. In fact, we two are part of the small group of SFF Chrons members that meet in London for drinks and larks. So of all the possible new acquisitions Snowbooks could have made last year, they quite coincidentally went and picked two from the same group of mates.

I’m doubly pleased for Bryan, who has lovingly slaved over his debut novel, the dark, alternate-Edwardian fantasy that is The Goddess Project, for many years, and it absolutely deserves the recognition and pedigree of a launch with Snowbooks. I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of it, and it was utterly marvellous. I took it with me on a work trip to Matera in southern Italy, and during a free afternoon I tore through the latter half of the book, with that ancient hilltop city as my backdrop and the Mediterranean Sun beating down overhead. It was a perfect afternoon.

There is beauty and magnificence in The Goddess Project. The prose is clean and crisp, the world is vivid and rich, and the characters are rounded, flawed and damaged. What’s more, the central hook – two youngsters, Orc and Cass, are washed up on a beach together with no memory of who they are; they have feelings towards one another but look alike, and are fearful of acting upon their feelings in case they are brother and sister – is such a brilliant and simple concept that I’m continually in awe of its simplicity. It can’t help but draw you in. And once you’re in, you’re in for good.

To recover their identities, Orc and Cass take to freediving to recover an artefact buried at sea, which may have the power to restore their memories. Yet they are not the only ones looking for this thing, and they are drawn into a conflict that threatens catastrophic levels of destruction.

Drawing on shamanistic, animath elements, as well as the raw, ethereal power of a collective psychosphere, against the stark, stoic drear of an Edwardian imperial naval power gives it a very potent, even faintly Lovecraftian “man versus nature” theme, but in truth the motifs and themes are more fluid than that: “man<>nature” would be more accurate. The book is so well grounded in its world that it feels more like magical realism than a fantasy. The best bit is, it’s the first part of a trilogy.

It’s a fabulous debut from yet another talented UK author, and I love it.

The Kindle edition is out already, but I’m waiting patiently for the paperback version to be delivered, as it deserves to be held. I can’t recommend it highly enough, and urge people to read it before it goes mainstream, and I’m sure that, at some point, it will.

Published by Dan Jones

I'm a science fiction writer and podcaster. My debut novel Man O’War was published in 2018 by Snowbooks, and I’ve had a few short stories published here and there. I also host Chronscast, the official podcast of SFF Chronicles, the world's largest science-fiction and fantasy community. Away from writing I work for the UK Space Agency on a programme of space robotics for advanced satellite and planetary exploration technologies. All of which comes in rather handy when coming up with new ideas for science fiction stories.

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