Neill’s debut novel is a sci-fi tale, spanning four short volumes, about a future society that outlaws religion and all things supernatural after a near apocalypse.
According to the official history of the Twin Cities, Fortinbras and Lysander, a nuclear holocaust left all but a few hundred people on the planet dead in an event known as the “Cataclysm.” Those remaining few rebuilt society, shunning the things that they believed caused the division and strife that led mankind to destroy itself. In this environment, two girls meet and become lifelong friends: Sabrina Sabryia, niece of Head Minister D’Agosta; and artist Lindsey Mehdina, who has episodes in which she can see the future. Sabrina becomes a cadet in the society’s militaristic police force, responsible for stomping out all symbols and practice of religion and superstition and making sure everyone follows the strict rule of law. She often deals with Lindsey, who’s much more of a free spirit, painting public murals in colors not sanctioned by the Head Ministry. Their friendship is jeopardized when Sabrina finds out that Lindsey is involved with the very occultists that she’s been trying to bring down. This leads them both to journey outside the Twin Cities, where they find another world they didn’t know existed. It causes them to examine their faith, friendship, and everything they think they know about their society. Neill has created an immersive world—one that readers can see, hear, and smell (“The desert yawned open around them, red light from the setting sun streaking across the hardpan”).The characters even have their own profanity, somewhat in the style of the Battlestar Galactica reboot; meanwhile, a refrigerator is a “cold box,” while carlike vehicles are “roll pods.” The jargon seems like overkill in spots, but it’s effective at reminding readers that they are indeed in another world, familiar but still alien. The technology is also inventive, and the large birdlike machines that the ministry uses to hunt down the occultists are terrifyingly effective. Overall, the saga is well-plotted, its characters well-drawn, with a thoughtful philosophy framing the events. The four volumes taken together read like a miniepic.
A notable, impressive debut for sci-fi fans.