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Set the Seas on Fire
Reviewed by Peggy Hailey, © 2007

Format: Book
By:   Chris Roberson
Genre:   Nautical Horror
Released:   September 2007
Review Date:   October 30, 2007
RevSF Rating:   9/10 (What Is This?)

I read the self-published version of Set the Seas on Fire years ago and loved it. I was heavily into Patrick O'Brian's books at the time, and the thought of combining seafaring adventure with unexplainable horror really floated my boat.

Um . . . so to speak.


Anyway, I remembered the book fondly, so when I found out that Chris was reworking and expanding the book, I was all atwitter. When I finally got my hands on a copy, I jumped right in, hoping that I wouldn't spoil a good memory. Boy, did I get lucky.

Set the Seas on Fire works on many levels. First, there's the seafaring adventure novel. Any fan of this type of book will enjoy Roberson's attention to detail (no words used are inauthentic to the era). Folks who don't normally read these books will be able to follow what's going on without getting bogged down in the difference between a mainsail and a topgallant or what the heck a foc'sle is.

Then, there's the island life adventure novel (which is kind of a subsidiary of the seafaring adventure novel, until the man-sized bat things show up). We get a further development of the characters we've already met, but we also meet the people of the island and begin to know them. Roberson plundered many different cultures to create his natives, and they really ring true.

Now we come to the character study. We see Hieronymous from childhood to adulthood (although not in a linear fashion). We get to see the forces that shaped him and made him the man he grew up to be, which has resonance both in this novel and in Paragaea, where Hero also appears. But we also get to see how he changes when faced with a challenge he hasn't prepared for -- love.

The realistic detail in setting and character makes it all the easier to suspend disbelief once the supernatural elements start showing up; you really care what happens to these people, which is quite a feat. So if you like fast-paced adventure stories that don't sacrifice characters on the altar of plot, then you really should be reading Chris Roberson.

Peggy couldn't tell a foc'sle from a hole in the ground, but she loves referring to her co-workers as "Scurvy Dogs."

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