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Book Review - Venomous Lumpsuckers by Ned Beauman

Should I have read a near-future climate dystopia when I’m living in a present day climate dystopia? Perhaps not! But here is my take as a developmental editor!

Venomous Lumpsuckers by Ned Beauman has a brilliant premise. Karin Resaint, a biological researcher, is on a mission to save the Venomous Lumpsucker. Mark Haylard’s company might just have wiped them off the planet, a fact that may cost Mark a lot of money.

Please be aware that this review will contain spoilers.

Something this book does brilliantly is establish strong motivations and goals for the character’s and is reactive to what might change those goals, and linking those goals to the overarching story. Mark, ambivalent towards wildlife, is tied to the quest because the extinction of this particular species may land him in prison for fraud. His motivation is to stay out of prison, so his goal is to find the fish. At the halfway point, proof of life for the venomous lumpsucker can no longer buy him more time. He no longer has motivation to find it. But the story isn’t over, so Beauman establishes a new goal for Mark. Not only does this give Mark a reason to stick around, but it links the story back to the bigger picture. So far, we’ve been caught up in the extinction of this one species and feeling a sense of hopelessness when we consider the greater conspiracy. Beauman uses Mark’s redirected motivation (which is still to keep out of prison), to make him the unlikely holder of a new goal: to solve the conspiracy.

What I found tiring about this book is the degree to which the narration doesn’t trust the reader to make connections.  A good portion of this book could be cut if the reader was trusted to realise for themself the consequences of what has just happened. Beauman’s world building is expansive and it does require some trust to expect your reader to realise when an event might have bearing on the stock market, and therefore the motivations of characters. Paragraphs explaining these links lead to the reader skipping through sentences to see when the narrative will pick up again. For the most part, how your characters react to plot points should be enough to jog the reader’s memory and make the connection themself, even if they didn’t realise immediately.

Overall, I have really enjoyed reading this book. The prose is incredible and the premise is fascinating. But maybe I should read something lighter next!

A Kobo displaying the Venomous Lumpsucker’s cover in greyscale held up against a patch of wild flowers and long grass. The cover has bold text and a weird looking fish thing.


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