The Inferior by Peader O Guilin (The Bone World Trilogy: Book 1)

9/10 If you enjoy science-fiction adventures then this book is a must read.

First published in 2007, The Inferior is Peadar Ó Guilín's debut novel; an original and intriguing science-fiction adventure that pushes the boundaries of young-adult fiction.

Stopmouth and his family know of no other life than the daily battle to survive. To live they must hunt rival species, or negotiate flesh-trade with those who crave meat of the freshest human kind. It is a savage, desperate existence. And for Stopmouth, considered slow-witted hunt-fodder by his tribe, the future looks especially bleak. But then, on the day he is callously betrayed by his brother, a strange and beautiful woman falls from the sky. It is a moment that will change his destiny, and that of all humanity, forever.


At first, The Inferior takes a little getting used to as the narrative style is young-adult while the themes, notably cannibalism, rape and the death of small children, are unquestionably adult. So be warned, this book, and those that follow, are not for the overly squeamish or the easily upset.

Initially everything seems pretty straight-forward. We have the Stone-Age setting and a scenario of survival of the fittest as warring tribes practice genocide on each other. But as the story progresses the author cleverly inserts points that raise some big questions: Why is none of the vegetation edible? What are the globes patrolling the skies? Everything hints at a more advanced race/species monitoring the tribes and it is these questions that keep the reader both guessing and reading. Nothing is what it at first appears to be. And this is why the book has been likened to The Truman Show so often.

The characters, and their interaction, is another area in which Ó Guilín shows a sure hand.

There is very little not to like about Irishman Ó Guilín’s debut other than to mention that some readers (like I did myself) may struggle at first due to the theme and the narrative-style being slightly at odds, but after a while this no longer becomes an issue.

The Inferior has been likened to Tarzan, Conan and The Truman Show. I would certainly agree with The Truman Show, as many parts of the book bring back echoes of that inspired little film, but it would be William Goldman’s Lord of the Flies that I would offer as another string influence. Both books show very clearly the very fine-line between civilisation and savagery.

If you enjoy science-fiction adventures then this book is a must read, and fans of speculative fiction will also find much to enjoy here. I think The Inferior will move the boundaries of what authors can do with a young-adult novel, much as Margo Lanagan did with Tender Morsels. Young adult’s should rejoice, as I’m sure that we all remember that it is an age where you want to be treated as an adult rather than a child. This is what this book does.

And just remember, there is but one law: Eat or be eaten.

Those who have already read and enjoyed The Inferior may also enjoy KS Turner’s The Chronicles of Fate and Choice and Walter E Mark’s The Sixth World of Men. And vice versa.


Although both The Inferior, and its 2011 sequel The Deserter, do not mention it, I believe that both books form part of The Bone World Trilogy, and we should expect a conclusion to this innovative story in the non-too-distant future.

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Peader O Guilin's The Bone World Trilogy series

The Inferior

The Bone World Trilogy: Book 1

The Deserter

The Bone World Trilogy: Book 2

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