Tag Archive: dystopian fiction

(This is a spoiler-free review of the advance review copy provided by the publisher.)

“The Forever Watch” by David Ramirez just might be one of the greatest dystopian novels of our time, though you wouldn’t know it by the way it begins.

The book takes place aboard a giant spaceship “Noah,” which carries the last surviving humans from Earth to the planet of Canaan. The voyage will last over a thousand years, but nobody minds it because life is good: cybernetic implants amplify people’s natural abilities and turn them into telepaths, healers, super-strong bruisers, etc. There is no war, no racism, no religious discrimination (mostly because religion has been quietly eliminated over the years) and everything is just peachy. Or is it?..

The main character is the administrator of the city planning bureau. The book begins with her waking up after her 9-month-long breeding duty. (In the wonderful space future, you just take a 9-month nap and wake up to find a large cash bonus in your bank account – somebody else will raise the baby for you.) Shortly afterwards, her friend, a bruiser with an enhanced metabolism, asks her to help him out with an odd case he’s been working on. As they investigate a bizarre murder, they discover far more than they’d ever expected to find.

At 336 pages, “The Forever Watch” is an impressive novel, especially considering it’s Ramirez’s first novel. The plot takes course over the period of several years, flowing smoothly from one key point to the next, evenly spreading the introspective chapters and the gory, bloody action scenes featuring telepathically enhanced characters.

The way the story slowly but surely descends from a verifiable Utopia into a dysyopian nightmare is remarkable – a hard sci-fi version of “Faust” if I’ve ever seen one. Ramirez uses all the genre tropes – spaceships, aliens, mutants, psychics, self-aware computers and so many, many more – and weaves them into the narrative filled with plot twists and surprises that even the most astute reader would find hard to anticipate.

“The Forever Watch” is not a nice book. It’s not a happy book. It’s definitely not the kind of book you’d want to give your 11-year-old. But it’s the perfect book for our age, with its grim, gestalt message about surveillance and secrets, rebels and revolutions, freedom and responsibility. It’ll make you think and weep and gasp and wonder, as all great books are meant to do.

Score: five stars

Pre-order the book on Amazon

“The Cleansing” is the first book in the “Earth Haven” trilogy by Sam Kates – and it doesn’t disappoint. H.G.Wells was the first author who wrote about an alien invasion in his 1897 “War of the Worlds.” Today, 117 years later, that concept seems almost mundane, but Kates managed to find a few new angles that make his book stand out.

For one thing, the alien invasion in this book begins in a very low-key way. There are no spaceships and lasers – in fact, the aliens have lived among us for a very long time and they’ve come up with a great way to get rid of the pesky humans. (I won’t post any further details to avoid spoiling the book for you.)

The book’s pace is deceptively slow, with just the right amount of foreshadowing and quite a few gory details that show how 99.98% of mankind died out. One of the main characters is a British schoolteacher who is one of the lucky 0.02% that survived. The book switches between his point of view and those of the aliens who have spent far too much time on Earth and, in some cases, became a bit too attached to humans.

Despite the book’s dark and gloomy atmosphere, the author maintains just the right balance: the aliens aren’t omniscient (and, on occasion, screw up just like a baseline human would) and the human characters react to the near-extinction of the human race in very believable ways. There are occasional gems, too: the author explains the origin of vampire myths and the true purpose behind the Stonehenge. (The latter makes just as much sense as any of our current theories.) Although most of the book doesn’t feature a lot of action, Kates does a great job of painting a “what if” scenario. Here is hoping the next two books are even better!

Score: five stars

Amazon page