I've long been drawn to these dystopian visions of a near future world that have their roots in the psychedelic fiction of authors like Phillip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, A Scanner Darkly) Cormac McCarthy (The Road) and their celluloid counterparts George Miller (Mad Max) and Ridley Scott (Bladerunner). I think I have an attraction to anarchy and the resourcefulness of ordinary people who are given the chance to prevail when orthodox society fails.
This vision of a possible future is no better illustrated in a 2014 dystopian young adult thriller called New World: Rising by author Jennifer Wilson.
(image credit: JK Wilson.)
From the liner notes:
Since witnessing her parents' murders at the age of eleven, Phoenix's only purpose in life has been to uphold her mother's dying words- to be strong and survive. But surviving outside of The Walls- outside of The Sanctuary- is more like a drawn-out death sentence. A cruel and ruthless city, Tartarus is run by the Tribes whose motto is simple, "Join or die."
Refusing to join and determined to live, Phoenix fights to survive in this savage world. But who can she trust, when no one can be trusted? Not even herself.
With an atmosphere that calls back to those classic works of dystopian fiction, Wilson's New World: Rising is an electrifying first salvo in what promises to be a series that exemplifies all the great things about the genre. From the get go, we are introduced to a broken world in an undefined period of the near future. Society has broken down and reorganized itself into a set of Tribes - each of which possesses a different view of humanity from the virtuous to the animalistic. For the majority of these Tribes, the object of survival is merely to exist, rather than to advance or recapture the notion of enlightened society and, as such, the New World exists in a state of chaos.
We enter this New World through the eyes of Phoenix, a enigmatic young woman who deliberately isolates herself and moves through the world a loner. While her background is unclear from the outset, she clings to the notion of a civilization that once was that was impressed upon her by her long dead parents. She is a voracious reader, gathering the discarded books of a long forgotten city library - partly for use as currency as she moves through the shattered city known only as Tartarus - and partly for her own education. She is also resourceful, intelligent and nimble - essential ingredients for survival in the chaos. She is a survivor and while it seems that Phoenix sees the world as hopeless, she does hold within her a spark of hope.
When Phoenix intervenes to save an 10 year old girl from a band of animalistic Ravegers, she is captured by agents of a mysterious underground conclave. Known as The Subversive, Phoenix finds herself introduced to a Tribe whose existence owes itself to being a splinter of the only remaining 'enlightened' society - known as The Sanctuary. The Subversive have a vendetta against The Sanctuary and Phoenix quickly finds herself propelled into a conflict where her family legacy will become a bargaining chip in a full scale battle for survival.
Wilson's novel crackles with energy and atmosphere from the get go and her skill with world building is among the best I've read. The world of the future is a devastated, gritty and depressing morass that totally sucks you in. When you find yourself presented with fragments of our civilized past, they evoke an emotional response that keeps you invested.
Wilson's use of the first person narrative is absorbing, allowing for a immediate psychological experience of a young woman who is trying to survive in a post apocalyptic wasteland. When we are introduced to the conclave of The Subversive, Wilson presents a complex Tribe trying to retain a semblance of organized society that values nurturing, education and advancement while offsetting that with a dangerous sense of justice that does not tolerate infractions of any kind. The Subversive can be as brutal as it is enlightened.
The supporting cast that Phoenix encounters are as equally appealing. Triven, the nominal leader of The Subversive, acts as guide to Phoenix in her initiation into the Tribe as well as a romantic interest who awakens in her feelings and a humanity that she thought she didn't possess, There is the outwardly cold and unfeeling Arstid, who is a much more complex character than we are lead to see, driven by an agenda couched in tragedy and a desire for absolution. And there is Mouse, the mute child Phoenix rescues at the outset, who awakens a maternal sense in Phoenix that adds further weight to her nascent humanity. Mouse's importance to the story is satisfyingly obscure in this first entry but Wilson hints that her importance will be explored further in subsequent entries.
The efficiency of Jennifer Wilson's writing is outstanding and she does not labor too long in anyone place before moving the narrative forward. Her action scenes are cinematic, breathtaking and surgical in their precision and I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in Wilson's study as she was mapping these out. Her grasp of post apocalyptic politics is a joy to read and to ponder upon and I found myself thinking about this aspect of the story long after I had finished.
And New World: Rising is as entertaining as hell, keeping the reader locked into their seat for a thrilling ride that culminates in crackling climax, leaving the door open for a highly anticipated follow up.
A thoroughly deserved 5 Stars.
(image credit: JK Wilson.)
As a child Jennifer loved getting lost in the stories of others, but struggled greatly with reading. A notoriously slow reader who stumbled with words and spelling, Jennifer shied away from books, leaning heavily on musical theater and movies to get her inspirational fix.
It was not until in her mid-teens, when a persistent friend convinced her to read the Harry Potter series, that Jennifer found her love for the written word. J.K. Rowling’s books opened doors not only to the fascinating world of a young wizard, but to a life filled with a multitude of literary friends and fantastical worlds. Once a timid reader, Jennifer now devours books and loves getting lost in a new series.
Jennifer had wanted to write her own novel since her early twenties, but unfortunately inspiration doesn’t always strike on command. Her first book, The Chosen, was completed in 2013. But as most first attempts go, it was a flop. While looking through a multitude of rejection letters, inspiration struck again, putting Grace’s story got on hold as Phoenix’s began.
New World: Rising began to fill Jennifer’s brain, flowing like a fully opened valve from her fingertips. What was once such a struggle in her early years suddenly became a passion.
When Jennifer is not writing, she is enjoying life in Colorado, rock climbing, camping, exploring new foods, playing with her golden retriever, Duke, and sharing her life with her handsome and wonderful husband.
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On May 1st - You Will Meet The Recipient.