Book Review: 'Corr Syl the Terrible' by Garry Rogers
Corr Syl The Terrible is a young-adult science fiction novel by Garry Rogers, and it's set in an alternate reality where Earth is populated by animated species that have evolved far beyond Human abilities. These highly intelligent" animals call themselves the Tsaeb (silent T, long a), and they've learned to adapt their shape, live in harmony with nature, and heal their bodies. They're born with the instinctive tendency to protect life. Its story centers on Corr and Rhya, young warriors descended from rabbits.
With only over a hundred-pages long, Corr Syl is a book you can pick up and read in one-sitting; its length and pace remind me of Neil Gaiman's novella The Ocean at the End of the Lane. For a short piece, the world-building aspects of its fictional Earth impressively paint a believable alternate reality. Rogers seems to have a clear vision of his world's geography and cultures, which aren't much different from present Earth; what makes his world exotic is its extraordinary inhabitants. The Tsaeb civilization feels alive despite the narrow scope they're given.
The plot quickly gains momentum when rabbit warrior Corr Syl springs into action when he learns that his friend and fellow warrior, Rhya Bright, was kidnapped by unidentified Tsaeb traitors. He controls a sentient ship called Z99, which is "constructed with fantastic technology borne from theories on dark matter and imaginary relationships.". Using his tactical senses and his ability to communicate telepathically through "thoughtstreams", he tracks the whereabouts of Rhya and her captors, and tries to take down a cowardly leader responsible for crimes against global stability and productivity essential to the lives of the world's citizens.
Most of the novel's first act is filled with physical details of nature that stimulate the senses; Corr's journey across various landscapes shows us an expansive view of the alien Earth, giving us a peek of what seems to be a vivacious world reminiscent of Avatar's habitable moon, Pandora. Mother Earth may be wearing a mask in here, but she's the same being. Unlike most popular YA sci-fi books, Corr Syldeviates its conflicts away from violence. Even Corr says that Tsaeb warriors fought to end wars, but in what way?
Mentally, of course. Corr's mission to track and rescue Rhya feels like a chess game mixed with a cat-and-mouse chase—tactical, suspenseful, and puzzling, but the protagonist's challenge seems as easy as a typical kiddy jigsaw puzzle. The most interesting villain is probably the spider Lactella, whose power to control minions under the command of the Human Minister Ya Zhou. Their secret base is found on a volcanic island that reminds me of Mordor from The Lord of the Rings. In their battle, information is power, and with Zhou launching mindless pawns against the hero, the conflict feels dry of tension; Syl lacks the vulnerability that would make him sympathetic, making me care less about him and his mission. Why is Rhya so important to him? The answer is as enigmatic as the mysterious organization OFTA (Organization of Fair Treatment of All). At least a flashback that could develop their relationship could fill the void, but Rogers' "thought streams" are directed elsewhere.
Themes of equality, global stability, and anti-violence are prevalent here, so this is like the Young Adult version of James Cameron's Avatar in a way, but with almost zero violence, less action, and more scouting.