In Kunz’s (Shangrila and Linda, 1981) latest novel, a woman battles a repressive society and struggles with her own sense of self in a futuristic, dystopian world.
In a future New Mexico, Leila lives in a world in which she has a “birth mother” instead of a loving “mom” and has spent her life under “years of control and surveillance by the VendorState.” It’s also a world with supernatural elements, in which “amorphous forms” haunt and attack her in her dreams, and her abstract thoughts and fears become reality. Leila, a strong feminist, goes against the grain in a society where women are merely expected to be pretty. Gender is portrayed as fluid, as when Leila conjures a creature whose “ice blue eyes were unreadable, as were the unoccupied hands resting in her lap. The hands brought Leila back. Strong, more male than female.” Leila has affairs with both a male character, Mohammed, and a female, Monique. Mohammed believes that Leila’s assertiveness is part of the Irrevocable Transition—an impending time of social disorder. Leila battles against mind control and firebombings with her dog, Buster, her best friend and confidante, at her side. She ultimately triumphs through the use of “interactive healing,” a skill in which she uses both flora and aikido. Kunz intriguingly weaves a martial-arts theme into the novel and includes a sprinkling of Mexican-American culture and language—common in books about the Southwest but somewhat unusual in dystopian thrillers. Kunz’s rich exposition, deeply developed characters and precise dialogue help deliver a true page-turner. Meanwhile, the story’s mix of sociopolitical and fantastical themes make it a relevant and timely tale.
An offbeat dystopian novel that may find readers outside of sci-fi fandom.