In a futuristic society divided by power and class, an audacious plan unfolds to restore justice and equality in this dystopian novel.
As the story opens, Ansley Brightmore, a reclusive professor, approaches the center where he will receive a treatment designed to extend his life. Years earlier, a catastrophic financial collapse left the world in shambles, and a group of men known as the Overseers rose to power and reorganized society according to a strict hierarchy. Citizens of Arameus were divided into “Nephites,” the social elite (of which Brightmore is a member), and “Natural Born,” the enslaved workers. Nanocyte treatments offer eternal life to the Nephites alone. At a place called the Institute, Brightmore takes an interest in the work of a young academic, Arian Cyannah, who’s developing a bot that could render nanocyte treatments obsolete—and correct the Overseers’ injustice. The Overseers, meanwhile, have also taken an interest in Brightmore’s activities, and one of their Consulates, Tiberius Septus, has a plan to help stop them. Septus asks his consort, Kaiya, a beautiful Natural Born, to recruit Cyannah as a spy for the Overseers. Cyannah soon finds his loyalties torn between Brightmore and the alluring Kaiya. Other supporting characters include Jabari Stoudamyre, a gifted athlete who’s loyal to Brightmore’s cause, and Matthew Conway, Cyannah’s student, who uses his research to his own advantage. When Cyannah discovers that his bot is doing unintended things, his mission takes on added urgency and danger. The treatments offer the promise of extending a person’s life forever—but they’re also ripe for exploitation.
Debut authors Arla and Compton’s ambitious first novel in the Arameus Chronicle combines fast-paced action with a thoughtful exploration of the ethical implications of technological advances. Arameus is vividly rendered, from the social order that dictates every facet of a citizen’s life to popular sports and leisure activities. The story offers a trio of strong protagonists, and their actions give the novel momentum: Brightmore is the driving force behind most of the action, and repeated flashbacks offer glimpses into a tragedy that changed his life forever. Cyannah is shown to be a talented scientist who accepts his place in society until he meets someone who challenges his views. Meanwhile, Kaiya uses her wiles to survive, yet her loyalties remain elusive. The supporting characters are similarly well-drawn. Overall, the propulsive narrative offers a number of surprising and rewarding plot twists, anchored by an examination of the use—and potential for abuse—of the nanocyte treatments. Arla and Compton use a number of different viewpoints to lay out how the treatment evolved from a promising scientific breakthrough to a means by which the Overseers gained control over an entire society. However, they also balance the philosophical issues with well-constructed action sequences, and these culminate in an energetic and suspenseful climax that helps set the stage for a planned sequel.
A provocative first installment in a
promising sci-fi series that may also appeal to fans of techno-thrillers.