Reviews for Small-Minded Giants
Recommended by Robert Dunbar in The Irish Times in his list of top thirty children’s books of 2006.
'Oisin McGann’s latest work is a hard-hitting novel for teenagers which depicts a disturbing yet believable future. McGann’s effective dystopic vision is backed by superb storytelling and should prove his breakthrough book.’
John Newman, Publishing News
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
A Dome of One's Own: Oisin McGann, Small Minded Giants.
London: Doubleday & Co. Inc., 2007
'I'll come to the title at the end.
'Sol lives in a domed community. It may be the last community in the world. The dome keeps out the ice and the snow, and once it kept out people when the climate changed and the rich scurried to survive. The dome is somewhere in the Phillipines but the Phillipines now only exists as the workers in the slums, and the gang leaders in the lower parts of the city. Sol, descendant of skilled workers, is relatively privileged, but the emphasis is on relatively. He has school, and food, but it’s all pretty meagre and his dad is a Daylighter, one of the men who replace the now broken machinery which was meant to keep the dome clear of snow and let the sun in.
'The story opens after approximately one hundred and fifty years has passed and people know that there are probably another six hundred or so to go. Sol is on a school trip when he sees one of the crane cars crash. Then he hears his father has murdered someone and disappeared. Suddenly people are looking for him, assuming that he will know where his father is.
'What follows is a classic sf/thriller in which Sol and his friend Cleo are pulled into the workings of the city. At times this story reminded me of Heinlein's "The Roads Must Roll" even for a moment arguing that the unions are corrupt and want to bring the city down to prove their own importance. But eventually McGann--as one might expect with his previous credentials--draws us into a more complex argument about the effects of capitalism and competition on a closed society that is utterly interdependent. There are also a few pointed suggestions that we might want to think about who owns our world.
'The story ends with information being released into the open. What people will do with that is left open to question and there's a hint that the crusading policeman might be a threat in the long term--that the Dome is about to swap a plutocracy for a tyranny.
'But how does it work as science fiction? As usual with McGann, the politico-social aspect of sf is handled deftly. At no point can we relax and think of it as a world "just like ours". Similarly, the engineering of the world is visible: the Dome keeps going with the Heart Engine, a system by which the movement of people keeps complex dynamos generating energy (proving in a very literal sense that unity is strength). I was also pleased that Sol is very working class; his future is in boxing and manual labour. But what struck me is that with the exception of a very distant adult (Julio, boyfriend of Sol's teacher) we met no engineers. Sol and his friends engage with the surface of the world, not with its workings. Julio felt like a homage to the distant past, a man who could sound romantic about ventilation systems. I know men like that. I'd like to see a few more of them in sf for kids.
'And the small-minded giants? A reference to capitalists, whose tails continue to thrash long after their heads and purpose are cut off.’
'A gripping dystopian thriller, with echoes of A Clockwork Orange, has plenty of action to thrill teenage readers.'
Nikki Gamble, The Bookseller
'Highly visual and exciting... dystopian vision that is expertly crafted.'
Becky Stradwick, Borders, Publishing News
'This novel is McGann’s latest venture into the science fiction/thriller genre for teens and young teens. Like his earlier books, it is a well-written, fast-paced adventure story with a sympathetic hero and a strong female protagonist. With exceptional clarity, McGann builds a picture of a world depopulated by a new ice age which has made survival impossible outside the domed city of Ash Harbour... This story is hard-hitting and fairly adult in its themes. Sol, embroiled in a murderous conspiracy, himself murders, and there are a number of explicit and colourful deaths of minor characters. His close friend Cleo is addicted to 'stem’, a thinly-disguised Ash Harbour version of weed. Thematically too, the material requires a more mature reader. McGann’s work is unfailingly political and this work offers a critical commentary on our own consumer-driven, capitalist society. A worthwhile and interesting read for thoughtful teenagers.’
'Richard Morgan blasted on to the bookshelves with his hard-hitting tech-noir Altered Carbon, a book so in yer face you could smell its toothpaste. Oisin McGann has done the same thing in young adult form with Small-Minded Giants, a debut novel so powerful it all but explodes off the page.
The story takes place during Earth’s next ice age. Humanity has been reduced to the population of a single city built inside a hollowed-out mountain, struggling to recycle and repair the worn-out machinery built by their forefathers, their society eaten up from the inside by big businesses. Teenage schoolboy Solomon Wheat – fond of wearing a hoodie – investigates the disappearance of his father with the help of his friend Cleo, who smokes too many drugs. People die in gruesome ways. Others are tortured. Sol gets cocky. (Policeman: “I’m not sure I like your tone, son.” Sol: “I’m sixteen. It’s the only tone I’ve got.”)
What’s astonishing about Small-Minded Giants is the confidence with which McGann describes his world, from the workings of the mammoth machinery powering the city to his evocative descriptions (one room is said to smell of “damp hair and blood”). Acts of terrorism give the plot a V For Vendetta feel and the tone is just as uncompromising. In short, this book isn’t content to sit on your shelf; it’s too busy screaming at you to pick it up and READ IT!’
Jayne Nelson, SFX Magazine (gives it five stars out of five)
'CLEVER PLOT, GRITTY STYLE’
'It's the 23rd century, temperatures have plummeted to sub-Arctic levels and a whole civilisation is living crammed in one city, Ash Harbour, under a huge domed plastic roof to protect it from the elements. Small-Minded Giants is the gripping story of one Ash Harbour teenager Solomon Wheat, a 16-year-old with very adult problems. When his father, Gregor, a 'Daylighter' who scrapes ice from the dome to let sunlight in, disappears, accused of murder, Sol tries to discover the truth about a sinister gang called the Clockworkers in the hope of finding him. Helped by his dedicated and kind teacher, Ana, and an outspoken teenage musician, Cleo, Sol must solve the riddle of the Clockworkers before they kill him. Small-Minded Giants zips along at break-neck pace, each short, action-packed scene feeding into the next, ideal for teen readers with Playstation attention spans. McGann, an award-winning Irish author based in Blackrock, Co Dublin, is a robust storyteller. With Sol, a keen and accomplished boxer with a well-developed violent streak, he has produced a meaty, rounded character, but Cleo, and especially Ana, do at times come across as Sol's foils, rather than full-blooded characters in their own right. Saying this, the clever, intriguing plot more than makes up for any inadequacies in the characterisation and McGann's direct, gritty style of writing certainly packs a punch. He describes the future world with exacting detail, and some of his inventions are almost Asimovian in their originality and execution. His dystopian world, a canny blend of Indiana Jones and The Fifth Element, with its futuristic, industrial architecture is fascinating to read about and would look stunning on the big screen. As it is, Small-Minded Giants is good, solid entertainment which would delight any science fiction or fantasy aficionado of 13-plus. McGann hasn't quite mastered the universal appeal needed to hit the Colfer and Rowling jackpot, but watch this space. He's a talent to be reckoned with.’
Sarah Webb, The Irish Independent
'A pretty violent thriller that’s definitely for older readers, this book conjures up a claustrophobic, gritty and brutal society trying to survive, while outside the dome the cold winds howl and the atmosphere freezes.’
Thomas Murphy, Flipside Magazine (gives SMG four stars out of five)
After a review of Darren Shan’s Slawter: '... Not as much blood, but just as many heart-stopping moments occur in Oisin McGann’s new novel Small-Minded Giants... It bears McGann’s trademark bleak, sparse and frightening vision of the future, this time in the world of the Clockworkers and the Dark-Day Fatalists... This is gripping fiction, but the background of a scramble for power and resources in a barren earth has just enough basis in reality to frighten the living daylights out of the pessimistic teenage reader.’
Peter O’Connell, Cork Evening Echo
'Whether you like it or not depends entirely on whether fights, flights and regular plot twists are what you want from a novel. This is much more likely to be the case if you are a fourteen-year-old boy than if you are a literature-loving reviewer.’
Mary Hoffman, Times Educational Supplement, July 21st 2006
'Trust is firmly at the centre of Oisin McGann’s impressive dystopian thriller, Small-Minded Giants. The projected future world which protagonist Sol inhabits is domed, it was one of the last refuges for those with wealth enough to afford survival following the climate changes. The underlying and largely unspoken sense of desperation that accompanies the novel as the mechanics of this domed-world slowly corrode – literally and metaphorically – creates an atmosphere taut and tense to the point of imminent danger.’
'A gritty read with more boy than girl appeal.’
Kati Nichol, The Daily Express
'In this absorbing, often disturbing book, the author creates a world where life is completely different from the one that we know today. It is a harder world with few comforts and the future offers little hope for the young people who live there. Sol and Cleo discover that their world is not what they thought it was and they cannot help wondering if they are going to survive this difficult and uncertain time. Young adult readers will find this story to be very thought-provoking and by the end of the book they will appreciate how lucky they are not to be living in a place like Ash Harbor.’
Looking Glass Review
'Oisín McGann’s latest offering is a gripping sci-fi thriller that will have the
reader hooked from the start.’
Eoin Fegan, Bookfest 2006
'Small-Minded Giants by Oisín McGann is my kind of sci-fi: more character and plot than whizzing gizmos. Welcome to the 24th century and to Ash Harbour city, built inside a hollowed out mountain, in the South Pacific, “its top roofed with a massive dome to keep out the ferocious elements”.
The setting is brilliantly realised. Sinister, Orwellian touches – heating quotas, blackouts, pedal stations, torture, food supplements and catastrophic climate change – are timely reminders of where we might be heading. The private simulation chamber is a mind- and eye-opener and the Dark-Day Fatalists allow McGann examine religion’s role in a mechanised, violent, dehumanised world. Sixteen-year old Sol’s father disappears and the unravelling of that mystery becomes a compelling, compulsive, atmospheric story. Sol and Cleo take on the system and survive. For those aged 14 and upwards, it’s somewhere between Anthony Horowitz and Patrick Cave. The movie is already rolling in my head.’
Niall MacMonagle, The Irish Times
'McGann continues to develop as a writer of political fantasy, and those many teens (and adults) who loved both the Archisan Trilogy and his Gods and their Machines will find in this book an accomplished thriller, a genuine page-turner shot through with anarchic humour and the occasional tender moment, with serious environmental and political issues to consider long after the action and adventure has been enjoyed.’
Liz Morris, Inis Magazine
'One of the most original and thought provoking books I’ve reviewed in ages. This lengthy, futuristic tale takes on a whole gamut of modern-day issues such as terrorism, environmental destruction, corporate corruption and more...
'Political, aggressive and macho, this’ll give lads and ladettes plenty to get to grips with and to debate over in their common rooms. It is stylishly and skilfully written and no doubt will catch the eye of judges for prizes. I’d vote for it.’
Books For Keeps (gives it five stars out of five)
'Tight, intricate plotting and a strong supportive cast – among them Cleo, the feisty pot-smoking heroine and Maslow, a professional assassin and Sol’s protector – make this a compelling page-turner.
'But perhaps it is the depiction of the city itself that makes Small-Minded Giants an extraordinary novel. McGann’s vision of a vast citadel encased in glass, a bubble of civilisation on an Earth ravaged and depleted by climate change, is by turns clever, quirky and chillingly Orwellian. Here, daylight and real grass are precious commodities, the city’s energy is generated from the clockwise movement of its slavish commuters, and the sinister Clockworkers will stop at nothing to ensure the smooth running of the system. Dark, witty and violent, Small-Minded Giants is a truly thrilling and brilliantly imagined book.’ Adam Sherratt, School Librarian Magazine
'Set in a grimly realistic future, where the last remnants of the human race are hanging on in a domed city built to keep out the storms and sub-zero temperatures. Tense. Violent. Thought provoking. Loved it! Highly recommended.’
'Small-Minded Giants is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. I thought the plot was very imaginative and it left me gripped to each page. The characters were really realistic. I would definitely recommend this book for people to read, but I think older readers would understand it more as some parts became a bit confusing. I really loved this book and could read it over and over again.’
Teen Titles, Book Review Magazine
'A great sci-fi thriller for teen readers!... Really well written, fast and pacy, this book will have you gripped from start to finish!’
Waterstones Booksellers' Reviews
'It is a fast-paced action story...
'The two main characters of Sol and Cleo are well drawn and we are very much on their side. Maslow appears to be a pathological killer but there are hidden depths to his character that emerge as the story develops. Ana Kiroa is a sympathetic character who tries to help the children and she brings an adult perspective to the world of Ash Harbour...
'A well-written book, fast moving and action packed, which echoes the format of The Davinci Code. Should be enjoyed by boys and girls.’
Buckinghamshire County Library Service
'A gripping thriller set in a bleak yet believable future. The satisfyingly intricate plot twists and turns, as sixteen-year-old loner, Sol, tries to uncover the mystery of his father's disappearance, unsure who is friend and who is foe... Ideal for Key Stage 4 and above, this novel could also be enjoyed by able readers at Key Stage 3. 13+’
Library Services for Education
'The compelling story of one Ash Harbour teenager, Solomon Wheat, a sixteen-year-old with very adult problems... Good solid entertainment which will delight any science fiction fan.’
Sarah Webb, Mad About Books
'This book is very absorbing and often disturbing. It makes you think about how lucky we are and how difficult it is for Sol and Cleo at Ash Harbour, a place full of uncertainties, few comforts and no guarantee of a future.’
Emily Potter, Lancashire Children’s Book of the Year Reviews
'An insight as to what the future could look like for the human race. It’s a gripping tale of adventure and mystery.’
Jashar Masih, Lancashire Children’s Book of the Year Reviews
'The author creates an amazing tension and builds upon this with fantastic action. The realities of what life would be like are told very precisely. The best book I have read in a long time.’
Adam Bray, Lancashire Children’s Book of the Year Reviews
'As the main character is 16 I presume this book is aimed at teenagers and young adults, I am neither yet enjoyed it thoroughly, although not my normal Sci-Fi style book to read.
I am glad I bought this book on impulse whilst on holiday. It is a great story line, strong characters throughout, well paced, conspiracy theories, this book has the lot. I found myself lost in a world within a world, with more twists and turns than a country lane. I read it in three sittings. It is believable throughout and in many places it is possible to see the world we live in now turning into Ash Harbour.’
By Jarreck Dilynda "Sci-Fi chick" (Up North, England) 3.0 out of 5 stars, 13 Nov 2006
Big themes in a claustrophobic setting
'This is not a book for younger kids! There is some quite graphic violence that may not be suitable for younger readers. Don’t let that put you off though! There is a great story here.
On one level it is the story of a young man looking for his father who has disappeared after an industrial accident. On another, the claustrophobic Ash Harbour makes a great metaphor for our own world. Isolated and fragile with a failing Heart, it is run by large corporations desperate to hold onto power and profit. They will take any action necessary to ensure the smooth running of The Machine, including murder, kidnapping and torture. But we learn that the real power in Ash Harbour comes from the ordinary people and that just one person making a stand can make a difference. The main character, Sol, is very well realised. McGann's depiction of the 16 year old loner is spot on. Even if you have no interest in environmental issues, this is an engaging thriller. Fast-paced and atmospheric it leads to a thrilling climax that will keep any reader on the edge of their seats.’
By L. Hogan (Ireland) 4.0 out of 5 stars, 9 Oct 2006
'The cover of Small-Minded Giants says this is a book for older readers, and there may be some truth in this. It’s a violent story, in a way, and the future looks bleak. Oisín has written a thriller with lots of action, and none of the clever gadgets or the backup that Alex Rider enjoys. Sol is on his own.
'This is a well written thriller, combined with a good look at what may be in store for the world if we don’t do something soon. Living in Ash Harbour is not something to aspire to, except that the alternative - of being left on the outside - isn’t very attractive either.’
'Oisin McGann tells of a new world designed to be a utopia in a frozen wasteland, however, we soon see that man has learnt nothing from their previous mistakes and society still conforms to a class structure of the rich having everything whilst the poor struggle with little, and the gangsters take what they please.
'A cracking paced read from first to last page makes Small-Minded Giants a real page turner and well worth a read.’
Fantasy Book Review (Gives it 8 stars out of 10)
Reviewed as Daylight Runner
'While portions of the general theme may be slightly reminiscent of other science fiction books, McGann manages to create new characters and different outcomes. His development of the technology premise appeared to be intriguingly well thought out. The majority of the energy within Daylight Runner’s underground world is created as a result of the motion of individuals walking to and from work and school in their everyday lives, body heat, and other similar natural functions. The impact of limited daylight affects the depression and suicide rates in the city, and of course most plant-life and wildlife has become increasingly rare if not altogether extinct.
'For fans of science fiction or dystopian futuristic themes, Daylight Runner is worth checking out. This action-oriented thriller is a quick read yet thought-provoking at the same time. It may even leave the reader contemplating topics such as global warming and the limited resources in our environment a bit more closely.’
Lisa Damian, Damian Daily
'An Interesting Writing Technique And Twist Of Current Events’
Daylight Runner by Oisin McGann* Release Date September 23, 2008 (4 out of 5 stars)
'Daylight Runner was an intriguing book with a unique writing style. This book is not only a sci-fi thriller (stated on its back cover), but a mystery. The style was different and stood out. Instead of the usual gain clues along your search and then have a “big reveal” ending, Daylight Runner began with one question that webbed into many questions that formed from one possible “clue”.
'Sol’s personality, strength, innocence (in the beginning at least), and his driven need to find out the truth were the only reasons why Sol even learned of the Clockworkers and their plots. If he had not of had his persevering spirit, the people around him probably would have kept him in the dark.
'Many people today comment about “Global Warming”. I love the way the author went in the opposite direction with this book. Instead of Global Warming, this book is dealing with a enclosed concrete bubble that is protecting its inhabitants from the second Ice Age, a few centuries in Earth’s future.
'Daylight Runner’s almost backwards scintillating mystery solving technique and ironic twist of current events made this book highly original and unique.’ Yabooks Central Date Reviewed: September 1st, 2008