Title: Winter Tide
Author: Ruthanna Emrys
Genre: Science fiction, historical fiction
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Goodreads Summary:After attacking Devil’s Reef in 1928, the U.S. Government rounded up the people of Innsmouth and took them to the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god Cthulhu. Only Aphra and Caleb Marsh survived the camps, and they emerged without a past or a future.
The government that stole Aphra's life now needs her help. FBI agent Ron Spector believes that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that could turn the Cold War hot in an instant, and hasten the end of the human race.
Aphra must return to the ruins of her home, gather scraps of her stolen history, and assemble a new family to face the darkness of human nature.
I didn't realize Winter Tide was based on Cthulu mythology and the worlds of HP Lovecraft until I started reading it. The funny thing is that I've actually read some of Lovecraft's short stories on Cthulu, I just am not a die-hard fan so I've forgotten a lot of the details. I think I would have gotten a lot more out of this book if I were a bigger fan of Lovecraft. Even with my limited experience I got the sense that Ruthanna Emrys was paying homage to his universe while also dissecting and re-imagining it. I definitely appreciated the more feminist lens of Emrys over Lovecraft!
Winter Tide is sort of historical fiction, with some sci-fi thrown in. It weaves in elements of United States history with crazy science fiction elements; I thought bringing in Japanese internment was a genius idea. The main character and her brother are isolated and locked down for because people fear those who do not look like them. The pair finds comfort when Japanese Americans join them; together they bond over their "otherness". It's a simple idea but it makes so much sense!
A lot of Winter Tide is like that. There aren't any huge twists because you find out most of the secrets in the beginning. While there are many unexpected elements, they all weave into the story so well that you can really see how everything fits together and how it wouldn't make sense for it to be any other way. The characters and plot are both very deliberate.
My biggest complaint with this book is that it was hard for me to get emotionally invested in it. It's really hard to feel any emotional connection through Aphra's narration. Aphra's voice is a little dry, very introspective and a little bit...alien. She's not someone that you can easily see yourself as, and of course that's the point, but it still makes it hard to get through the story when Aphra is deconstructing and reflecting on everything with such reserve and detachment.
I would definitely recommend this book for people who love Lovecraft and aren't put-off by a more introspective and slow-moving science fiction story. This book is written in such a unique and lovely way, I will definitely look out for more by Emrys even if this one wasn't my cup of tea.
A free eARC was provided by Tor Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review