A bisexual, teenage slave squares off against the combined might of church and state with the help of his rich husband in this sci-fi thriller.
This second installment of Coulter’s (Chronicles of Spartak: Rising Son, 2016) series finds 17-year-old Spartak Jones, an Olympic gold medalist gymnast with divine pectorals and long blond tresses, on a honeymoon in orbit around Earth with his 19-year-old quadrillionaire husband, Zinc McClain, leader of the Twelve Families plutocracy. Zinc is technically Spartak’s owner, per a U.S. Supreme Court decision reinstituting slavery, but their relationship is portrayed as loving and egalitarian. In 2116’s neo-feudal America, where “barronials” lord over oppressed “downers” and democracy has been debased by the philosophies of Ayn Rand and Donald Trump, Spartak is a symbol of liberation to the oppressed masses. In many passages, characters praise him as “the most famous and lethal warrior on the planet” with an “endless supply of energy and goodness”; they toast his common touch, ponder his pronouncements on religious liberty, and applaud his “wondrous” interpretations of Frédéric Chopin’s and Franz Liszt’s works. Alas, there are distractions from Spartak-olatry: a military coup takes over the U.S. government; Dominionist theocrats attack barronials and kidnap Spartak’s siblings; and, most entertainingly, Spartak’s in-laws even sell him to a Marrakesh house of ill repute. Spartak fights back, assisted by Zinc’s limitless wealth, enormous private army, and invisible weapons. Throughout the book, Spartak often comes off as an overhyped, idealized character. However, when the book stops worshipping him long enough to throw in some conflict, Coulter pens some lively action scenes. Vigorous supporting characters also add some spice to the story. But the two romantic leads are a boring couple, and readers may find that their callow canoodling is far less arousing than their prurient weaponry: “I extracted the floppy plasteel sword from its hiding place in my belt….the sword lengthened, thickened, erect, hard, glowing and lethal.” Readers also may not buy that a master-slave marriage could possibly be as rapturous and non-exploitative as Spartak’s allegedly is—and may also feel that it undermines the novel’s soapboxing about equality and democracy.
A sometimes-diverting dystopian fantasy with an unconvincing romance and inconsistent politics.