James Russell isn’t known for his adult books. He has had significant success with his dragon series for young readers, and even with young adult fiction, but never ventured into fiction for adults. Until now. Mine is the first in a series of books under the umbrella ‘The Saltwater Series’, which is fitting considering the context of surfing centric stories.
The story is about James, a bit of a down and out Australian who seems to suffer setback after setback. His girlfriend is unfaithful but, at least, comes across as remorseful. Soon after the outing of the affair between his ex and a close friend, he finds out that his mum has passed away. In some kind of cleaning ritual he decides to head across to Bali to surf and find himself post all the trauma of home.
But things don’t unfold as he would like. The beaches are crowded, the tourism pollution is rampant, and everything is just getting put under pressure for the Balinese people and the land. So James heads to some of the more obscure parts of Indonesia and, through a series of events, he finds himself on the Sentinel Islands where is trespassing on tribal land with locals who have never seen a white man.
The story continues focused on how he manages to ingratiate himself into the community and learn more about their ways, changing some of them by his very presence.
Even those with a limited knowledge or even interest in surfing will find this book captivating and fast-paced. From conflicts to romantic liaisons, there is a little something for everyone in this short and very readable fiction title. It stands out in the genre of surfing stories as one that has plenty for surf mad aficionados to enjoy, but also a great story line to accompany it. The Sentinel Islands certainly have a foreboding but fascinating community and atmosphere about them and imagined by Russell. At times he has a bit of a saviour-like tone which could be a little jarring on occasion, but it is not distracting from the overall progression of the story.
As far as a series goes, this story sets up a nice premise from which to develop. In fact, the first chapter of the next in the series, Lines, is included at the back of the book.
Even with the vocabulary of a seasoned surfer with jargon about the entries, the break of the waves and the positioning of the ‘drops’ the story twists and turns more on human emotions, than on the sport itself. That, in itself, is enough to hold the attention of readers from all backgrounds.
Reviewer: Chris Reed
Dragon Brothers Books