Watchers does not feel like a debut novel, it feels like it was written by a seasoned sci-fi author. Craig Priestley wrote an awesome and very well edited sci-fi thriller that was an absolute joy to read.
Those are the irreversible words that tear Charlie’s world apart.
Struggling through everyday life in London, Charlie loses his job, his friends, and even more than he could ever imagine. The only thing that keeps him from spiraling into a pit of uncertainty is his inexplicable infatuation with the barmaid.
While Charlie fights tooth and nail just to survive, so does the world around him – humanity deteriorates quickly, with acts of crime and terror spiking worldwide. Police find themselves stretched, the government clueless, but Charlie’s eyes are open to the truth.
Something that really sticks out to me is that Priestley is able to combine themes of philosophy and perception in a way that doesn’t feel heavy handed, and doesn’t disrupt the story. Charlie, the protagonist, has a lot to question about his rapidly changing reality, but it doesn’t slow the plot any more than it should.
The author also combines realistic events with sci-fi elements effortlessly. The aspect of this that is most important is that the events feel real even though they are unrealistic. The U.S. is entered into a war with Russia, which feels very real when read by an American, then they go through the espionage and nuclear aspect of war. It felt so frightening and realistic to me. But, the sci-fi elements kept it from feeling too real, it had a good balance.
There’s one quote that felt especially relevant to current events in the U.S., the quote is,
“In Washington DC, workers carried on with their everyday lives. The terror threat was at its highest level since attacks on the Twin Towers, yet America stood still for no one.”
This country does not rest, not for war, not for terror attacks, and not for pandemics. It’s a very true quote no matter how absurd the idea is.
On a lighter note, the comedic banter in this novel is great. It’s a serious novel but it doesn’t throw comedic relief to the side like many sci-fi thrillers. The characters are funny and the conversations they have feel natural. Here is my favorite bit of conversation,
“But how do you assign importance?”
“Well, it’s someone that people look up to.”
“Is it similar to when you compare yourself to Chris Hemsworth?”
“What?” Charlie shot upright, avoiding eye contact with Anabel.
“When you look in the mirror, flexing your arms and pretending you have a large hammer in your hand.”
This was so well timed in the novel and it actually made me laugh out loud. These are the types of conversations I could see real people having and it added another layer of depth to the characters.
I like how this novel is mostly sci-fi with sprinkles of outright horror. The antagonists called, the corrupted, are these horrifying beings that are supposed to watch over their assigned human, but instead they corrupt them and make them do horrible things, like murder and rape. They’re like guardian angels gone bad, and they are described as frequently expressing classical body horror by twisting their necks and popping their limbs. I could picture it, and it was terrifying.
One tiny piece that bothered me was the conversion from miles to kilometers. This was obviously written for a UK audience, so it’s not a big deal, but it’s mentioned that a road sign in the US shows kilometers instead of miles. The U.S. is weird and for some reason we do miles instead of what everyone else does, so you wouldn’t find a sign like that here. But, it made me wonder if those who use kilometer know how to convert it to miles or vice versa.
If you ask me, Watchers earns an easy 4/5 stars. The ending is left open for a potential sequel and I hope there is one.
Interested in reading Watchers? You can find the first three chapters here. If you decide to buy your own copy you’d be doing me a huge favor by purchasing it through my affiliate link. Click here to get your own copy and I will get a portion of the proceeds with no extra cost to you.
Craig Priestley is a fiction author based in London, UK.
He graduated from the University of Greenwich with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Writing and released his debut sci-fi novel ‘Watchers’ in January, 2020.
He started Watchers as a creative outlet for some of his more interesting ideas. He worked on the project for six years before it finally all came together in 2020.
He has been working on a second novel on the side, which will be the first in a trilogy titled The United World.He is hoping to release the first installment by Christmas of this year, so keep your eyes out.