“This is the first thing I remember when I begin to cohere in unity: a woman standing at a railing, peering down into the vats at the final bottom of Bloom City – and a man in a cramped air transport lavatory, watching his reflection n the scuffed plastic mirror point a wave pistol at its own head.”
The future. Earth is not as habitable as it once was, and many people now live in underwater cities. These are ruled over by power-hungry clans wielding despotic power, but are still more desirable than the arid and often radioactive desert wastelands of what used to be the United States of America.
Danae is in service to the ruler of Bloom City, a cruel and unpleasant woman. But after years hiding out – from what, we will soon discover – under the waves, she needs now to reach a certain on-land location before the upcoming Equinox. She and her lover, Naoto, hire a mercenary, Alexei, to help them escape – but their timing is either perfect or the worst it could be, as civil war breaks out in the underwater city. Dry land won’t be any safer for them, though, with pursuers old and new.
And through it all, we slowly start to find out what exactly is going on in Danae’s head, what terrible thing Alexei is running from, and what exactly ‘Unity’ might be…
The blurb for this – or any new sci-fi – is always heavy on the comparisons. It’s this mixed with that, a if b and c. In this instance, titles thrown about include Neuromancer, Ghost in the Shell, Mad Max, and Sense8. What to glean from that going in? Well, it’s sci-fi dystopia cyber-punk-y.
Whether because of the swirl of those expectations, or just the general settling into a new speculative fiction world, I did find this a little hard going at the beginning. I do like being thrown in and not having everything outlined from the word go, but it does make for a little initial bafflement.
However, it’s very worth sticking to. First the action levels ramp up, and I really enjoyed seeing more of the world – I’m a big fan of world building. We also get to know the characters, particularly Danae and Alexei, a bit more, and start to uncover those secrets and hints about their pasts.
And then we start to find out about Unity, and what really ramped up my pace of reading was a need to know where the story was going to take us! I’d say the reveal and ending are more than satisfactory, too, which helps.
So yes, recommended if you want a bit of sci fi from a new voice. It’s not perfect, but it is well written, intriguing, and makes me quite excited to see what the author can do in the future.
NetGalley eARC: 304 pages / 30-ish chapters
First published: 13th April 2021
Read from 28th March – 7th April 2021
My rating: 8/10