An offbeat tale of freedom and duty in a rural totalitarian society.

READ REVIEW

The Wallbuilders

A FICTION

A dystopian thriller set in a community that has as much in common with Winter’s Bone as The Hunger Games.

In this debut novel, Nelson tells the story of a walled community in a vaguely Appalachian setting, where “Sentinels” protect the settlement against “Outlanders,” adolescents are “Chosen” for careers, and art is forbidden as a distraction from civic obligations. The unnamed protagonist directs his narration to an unnamed friend (“First time I actually seen your place. Even though I helped you build it”) whom he’s just buried. When authorities have questions about the narrator’s behavior, he’s sent to develop an abandoned orchard on the outskirts of the settlement. He’s also given responsibility for Mirabelle, the young daughter of his friend and an Outlander woman. Through flashbacks, the narrator reveals how his friend challenged the community’s norms and the events that led to his own exile. Ultimately, the narrator must decide how committed he is to enforcing those norms and defeating the Outlanders, and how flexible his standards are in the service of the community. Nelson takes a different approach to common dystopian tropes, such as rebellion and control. The book draws its world in detail, down to a technique for building a roof in violation of official standards, but the narrator’s focus is domestic, and the book doesn’t try to place the walled community within a broader context. However, a conflict over the community’s coal deposits adds a lightly explored environmental aspect to the story. Nelson’s frequent misuse of punctuation in dialogue (“ ‘Want a hand’ he says’ ”) and ellipses (“ ‘It has been...’ snaps his fingers in a circle ‘… one hundred and seven years since the last Outsider Incursion’ ”) can be grating, though, especially when contrasted with the deliberate non-standard grammar of the narrator’s voice (“It ain’t ownership, though, so much as it’s a duty to care”), which helps to establish the rural South setting.

An offbeat tale of freedom and duty in a rural totalitarian society.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5169-2617-6

Page Count: 114

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

THE FIFTH SEASON

From the The Broken Earth series , Vol. 1

In the first volume of a trilogy, a fresh cataclysm besets a physically unstable world whose ruling society oppresses its most magically powerful inhabitants.

The continent ironically known as the Stillness is riddled with fault lines and volcanoes and periodically suffers from Seasons, civilization-destroying tectonic catastrophes. It’s also occupied by a small population of orogenes, people with the ability to sense and manipulate thermal and kinetic energy. They can quiet earthquakes and quench volcanoes…but also touch them off. While they’re necessary, they’re also feared and frequently lynched. The “lucky” ones are recruited by the Fulcrum, where the brutal training hones their powers in the service of the Empire. The tragic trap of the orogene's life is told through three linked narratives (the link is obvious fairly quickly): Damaya, a fierce, ambitious girl new to the Fulcrum; Syenite, an angry young woman ordered to breed with her bitter and frighteningly powerful mentor and who stumbles across secrets her masters never intended her to know; and Essun, searching for the husband who murdered her young son and ran away with her daughter mere hours before a Season tore a fiery rift across the Stillness. Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun, 2012, etc.) is utterly unflinching; she tackles racial and social politics which have obvious echoes in our own world while chronicling the painfully intimate struggle between the desire to survive at all costs and the need to maintain one’s personal integrity. Beneath the story’s fantastic trappings are incredibly real people who undergo intense, sadly believable pain.

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-22929-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A captivating start to what promises to be an epic post-apocalyptic fable.

THE BOOK OF KOLI

The first volume in Carey’s Rampart trilogy is set centuries into a future shaped by war and climate change, where the scant remains of humankind are threatened by genetically modified trees and plants.

Teenager Koli Woodsmith lives in Mythen Rood, a village of about 200 people in a place called Ingland, which has other names such as “Briton and Albion and Yewkay.” He was raised to cultivate, and kill, the wood from the dangerous trees beyond Mythen Rood’s protective walls. Mythen Rood is governed by the Ramparts (made up entirely of members of one family—what a coincidence), who protect the village with ancient, solar-powered tech. After the Waiting, a time in which each child, upon turning 15, must decide their future, Koli takes the Rampart test: He must “awaken” a piece of old tech. After he inevitably fails, he steals a music player which houses a charming “manic pixie dream girl” AI named Monono, who reveals a universe of knowledge. Of course, a little bit of knowledge can threaten entire societies or, in Koli’s case, a village held in thrall to a family with unfettered access to powerful weapons. Koli attempts to use the device to become a Rampart, he becomes their greatest threat, and he’s exiled to the world beyond Mythen Rood. Luckily, the pragmatic Koli has his wits, Monono, and an ally in Ursala, a traveling doctor who strives to usher in a healthy new generation of babies before humanity dies out for good. Koli will need all the help he can get, especially when he’s captured by a fearsome group ruled by a mad messianic figure who claims to have psychic abilities. Narrator Koli’s inquisitive mind and kind heart make him the perfect guide to Carey’s (Someone Like Me, 2018, etc.) immersive, impeccably rendered world, and his speech and way of life are different enough to imagine the weight of what was lost but still achingly familiar, and as always, Carey leavens his often bleak scenarios with empathy and hope. Readers will be thrilled to know the next two books will be published in short order.

A captivating start to what promises to be an epic post-apocalyptic fable.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-47753-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more