Premise, plot, and prose: three elements that Tobias S. Buckell’s Hurricane Fever juggles in an ungainly show. The novel purports itself as a fast-paced sci-fi hitter. When it comes to premise, the book certainly succeeds as a technothriller. The reconstructed marine world of Hurricane Fever features highways for boats instead of cars, flashy new inventions like shark paint, and a fair number of “bio”-styled gadgets. With prose inclusions that show off his obvious bulk of research into the world of boating, Buckell does the masterwork of styling a nautical playground to set his characters loose in, and when it comes to plot, the driving mission is intriguing enough. Big hurricanes, big secrets, big chases – a lot of big, a lot of boom.
Unfortunately, when it comes to prose, the novel doesn’t quite measure up with the rest of its building blocks. The general page-by-page wordage is unique enough, but scenes often feel plopped into place, drop-kicked for the sake of having an action sequence here, or an exposition scene there, or a just few pages of filler to give readers’ anxiety (and likely Buckell’s writing fingers) a break. Though Buckell himself hails from the Caribbean, the attempt at accent in his characters’ dialogue but doesn’t entirely succeed; the dialect is only halfway reached, with some stretches of conversation lacking any evidence of native tongue whatsoever. The flip-flop between Caribbean flair and non-Caribbean writing is often jolting. Characters are similarly incompletely fleshed-out. While Buckell naturally holds back some information for the purpose of plot reveals later in the novel, he more often tells than shows readers who his characters are, with many of them feeling vaguely like real people, but who’ve somehow got puppet strings attached. Their motions settle somewhere in the uncanny valley. Again, almost all the way there.
All in all, compared to Buckell’s other books, Hurricane Fever is a low-finesse quick-pacer. If it were a movie, it’d be B-list. You’ll breeze through the book and likely even get your adrenaline levels up while doing so, but it’s an experience more akin to rollercoaster riding than rock climbing. Though perhaps that’s just as Buckell would have readers experience Hurricane Fever, as if they were main character Roo and going through his world, where everything is quick and dirty, not to mention scattered and fractured. Or – feverish, if you will.