In Llave’s debut novel, future humans have divided into two major groups: the purely pacifistic and love-driven Utopians, who live in immortality and abundance, and the hateful and warlike Kazats, whose thrive on inequality and intolerance.
Both cultures have advanced technology of many kinds, including space travel and extraordinary engineered materials, but a religious fervor among the Kazats urges them to slaughter and destroy the Utopians for their violation of a divine natural order. Caught in this escalating struggle is a Utopian named Paul Benedict, an unusual man because of his daring, risk-taking, and desire to fight back against the invaders. Eager to safeguard the lives of his people and of his wife and daughters and anxious about attacks on their planet that were directed by the Kazats, Paul works with other Utopians—including the legendary Father Kaiser, “Founder of all Utopians”—to develop a nonlethal combat suit called Variance. With Variance, he may be able to stem the tide of war while still upholding the Utopian ideal of preserving all life, even that of enemies. But things grow complicated when Paul gets the chance to win an even more bloodless victory by engaging the enemy in a deadly battle sport called Divine Might. The stakes are high, but if Paul can use Variance to claim the championship of the game, he can claim the prize—a wish granted by the tournament’s game master—that will change the course of history. The book includes a short set of stylish, evocative illustrations that support the text. Fast pacing and lots of action provide momentum while the nuts-and-bolts talk of engineering and science make the worlds feel believable yet alien. Likable characters and breezy dialogue add to the fun.
A grand, epic, upbeat sci-fi adventure with an anime influence.