In the first installment of Giacomazzo’s (co-author: Swimming with Sharks, 2015) dystopian series set in the near future, a group resists a dictator who’s taken control of America.
It’s been over two decades since New York City resident Jamie Ryan was frontman for the popular glam-rock band Faust. Since that time, the country has come under the control of the authoritarian regime of Roger Cunningham, who’s known as “Emperor.” After winning a presidential election, Cunningham declared a state of emergency; members of his police force, The Cabal, now use psychic powers known as “psi”— capable of stripping “your spiritual life force, your psychic energy, the very aura that made an individual unique”—to make citizens docile. Jamie became a Cabal officer to support his pregnant wife, Angelique Denham. But after a fellow officer killed Angelique, Jamie and two other officers, Basile Perrinault and Kanoa Shinomura, defied Emperor and went on the run. Since then, they’ve been covertly killing other Cabal members; now, they’re planning to bring together other insurgent groups, including one called The Uprising, to stand against Emperor. Jamie also finds out that Ramira “Rosie” Diaz, the ex-girlfriend of late Faust bassist Jordan Barker, is now Emperor’s wife; Emperor’s soon-to-be-betrothed stepdaughter, Evanora Joy Diaz-Barker, is Jordan’s child. Giacomazzo wisely condenses the plot to its essentials; the number of characters is relatively small, and although Emperor has taken over the entire country, the narrative is centered in New York. The coarse language throughout and sharp instances of violence make the novel decidedly adult in tone. There’s a notable theme of family as Basile fights for loved ones he’s lost and Evanora acts as Jamie’s surrogate daughter. Moreover, the story adeptly tackles topical issues: Emperor’s “therapy,” for example, essentially aims to turn gay people straight. The plentiful dialogue is rife with slang, clipped sentences, and light insults. Nevertheless, very little happens in this first book, leaving readers to wait for particulars on such things as The Trials (tests for joining The Cabal) and Faust’s decision to disband.
Minimal action, but the focused setting and rounded characters will prime readers for further stories.