The second installment of Atrium’s Dolvia saga is a character-driven sci-fi tale that explores profound—and timely—themes of sexual oppression, environmentalism and cultural intolerance.
Atrium’s intricate novel ranges widely in theme—gender, politics, existential philosophy, mysticism, etc. Set primarily on the planet of Dolvia—where the females of the indigenous, frequently warring tribes of the savannah maintain few rights and are forced to wear burkas—the storyline revolves, at least initially, around Dr. Edna Edwina Greensboro, a bush-clinic doctor whose courage, compassion and vision have begun to change some of the insular ways of thinking. Getting married to Lt. Mike Shaw, an off-world military man, and keeping two female gualareps—oversized and sentient iguana-esque reptiles—increases her status. But when she witnesses a “mixed blood” girl being brutally abused, she realizes that she’s working against centuries of oppression reinforced by cultural mores, folklore, myth and cruel men dead set on guarding the status quo. After all, the victims “are only women.” The commentary on gender politics benefits from a foreign setting; it’s an exercise in considering discrimination without finger-pointing. But that’s only one aspect of this multifaceted story—as Greensboro fights to save lives and educate the tribespeople, nefarious individuals and companies seek to profit from the chaos. Aside from a few instances where the storyline becomes erratic—as with Greensboro’s marriage, for example—Atrium’s saga continues with another entertaining and powerful read, reminiscent of Octavia E. Butler and Margaret Atwood.
An allegorical, emotionally intimate narrative for sci-fi fans, with broad themes that could appeal to a mainstream audience, too.