#review Ruby and the Blue Sky, Katherine Dewar
Coming at an eco-thriller from the point of view of the activists, RUBY AND THE BLUE SKY is part thriller, part exploration of "celebrity" culture, and part do good chick lit novel. The idea at the core is that fame can be used in positive ways - in this case a pro-environment, anti consumer-culture stance with a hefty dose of women's rights and empowerment.
To that end the central character Ruby is band leader, conscience and activist, pursued by eco-groupies, determined to ensure she uses a sold-out tour as a venue to push the messages. Needless to say message is a major part of this novel, with other elements, particularly those likely to be associated with thrillers, tending to be pushed to the background, or mostly, the later parts of the book.
Tone is important here and it's definitely designed to be on the lighter side, which doesn't always serve as a vehicle for delivery as the message often disappears into ancillaries (such as dedicated environmental warriors sitting around discussing nail polish colours).
There's also a brave undertaking being attempted for a thriller here - with the threat somehow always feeling slightly off-stage. It all does come down to the comment in the blurb - one young woman leading change in a sea of cynical old men and money-grubbing corporations. Whether or not that possibility is argued to any reasonable conclusion is going to come down to whether or not the style and structure of RUBY AND THE BLUE SKY works for individual readers.
Grammy night, 2021. Ruby wins 'Best Song' and makes an impulsive acceptance speech that excites nature lovers across the world. While Ruby and her band celebrate, an extreme evangelical sect, funded by covert paymasters, dispatches a disciple on a ruthless mission to England.
As the band plays its sold-out tour, Ruby is pursued by eco-groupies insisting she use her new fame to fight climate change.
Back home, in rain-drenched Leeds, Ruby must confront a challenge not even tea, beer or her mum's veggie lasagne will make go away. In a storm and drought-plagued world, run by cynical old men and self-serving corporations, could one young woman lead change?
Torn between the demands of the climate campaigners and her bandmates, Ruby has to decide how much - and even who - she will sacrifice.