“If you’re watching this, I’m dead.”
From the very beginning, we are thrown into a world that is simultaneously beautiful and brutal. This is a future where humans have solved basic human needs. There is no need to eat. There is no need to sleep.
Honestly, on the surface this is a future that sounds like something I would love. I have been obsessed with the idea of food in pills ever since The Jetsons! And, isn’t the most alluring part of being a vampire not ever having to sleep??? Imagine all the books I could read!
We are welcomed into this world. A utopia. A future where disease and conflict and struggle do not exist.
Most dystopians begin in a dark and dreary future. Bleak and oppressive, where immediately you know who to root for. You can see the injustice from a mile away.
Here, in this world, the bleak and oppressed are hidden. Frank gives us a future where animals have gone extinct and all human needs have been overcome. But the negative facts are painted over in light of all the accomplishments and progress made.
We are given the view of the world from Felix, a soldier who identifies with his place in this society. He has no reason to question, no reason to dissent.
In No Ordinary Star, we know things aren’t what they seem. We know right away that there is something else at play, but the mystery of the horrors are given in snapshots. Even though we are given alternating perspectives, really, we see the world unfold as Felix does. An unraveling of the carefully structured reality he has been fed.
This book is a dystopia disguised as a utopia. And there is art within that deception. Because, in life, this is usually how horrors unfold. In a beautiful lie. Which is why I liked this book so much. This is how I imagine a future could really unfold.
This isn’t a future where dramatic events shattered reality and formed a new society. Rather, we learn of small advances. Changes made one breakthrough at a time, slowly corralling us towards these changes. So small that maybe they aren’t even really noticeable as they occur, and only seem extreme and shocking once enough distance is in place.
The politics behind this sort of future make sense to me. They feel real.
Another realistic aspect of this book is how the horrors of this world are presented. They are simply stated, in a way again, that feels real in the most chilling way. There is no massive cover up, since history is accepted.
The very fact that it is openly referred to as “The Revision” is most telling of all. Reading those words, you know that history has been changed, facts altered irreparably. But they are accepted as truth. Accepted as fact. And what was revised unspoken and unquestioned.
Some of the revisions are obvious.
Women are separate from men. Science making reproduction clinical and wombs unnecessary. The only thing they need are the eggs, which are taken, regardless of a woman’s willingness or cooperation.
Not only are women kept separate. They are really slaves. Kept on islands for their eggs and labor. Never to birth the children, but to work. Or to endure time in the Box. Touching is not allowed between the genders, but does it matter when men rarely see women in person? Another human need eliminated through Science.
Prisons are where people go to suffer and die. Referred to as The Box. Noted because the only space you are given is a single square of space, large enough for you to stand, and nothing else. Hunger pills given once a day to stave off starvation.
Prisoners are forced to ensure this treatment. The only relief given in the form of attending executions or having your eggs extracted.
We get most of the horror of the world told to us through Astra, the young girl Felix finds and saves. Even though his years of training tell him this is a mistake, some shred of conscious from his buried past doesn’t let him walk away. They begin to form a friendship, each trying to understand the world and their role in it.
By far, the most compelling thing about this world and the control the government has over it, is in the weapons. Weapons, you see, are books. Information is power, and this world intends on making sure no one reads anything outside of their control. Women aren’t even allowed to read at all, which assures their role as subservient slaves, powerless and weak.
The writing is done in a way that paints a magical world, even if it is only magical on the surface. This simply makes the realness of this possible future feel even more striking. There is a real understanding of human emotion and human nature in this book.
Frank understands how to complicated these things are. You cannot strip down a human to basic functions and bodily needs. Not completely. Not entirely. You will always be left with something else. Something more. This book explores the what if scenarios of these endeavors.
I enjoyed this first piece of the story. It is short, 150 pages. It is Part 1, not book 1, which makes for a fast read. The world building is done with enough detail to really get a feel for the world we are in, without feeling bogged down in too many details. And there was a lot left that Parts 2 & 3 can answer and resolve.
M.C. Frank has written the exact type of dystopia I like. It is a solid representation of a world we could find ourselves in. I don’t have to struggle to imagine scientific advances answering questions of human needs. In this future, we solve what the body needs, and ignore what the soul needs. We eliminate any form of passion for the sake of peace. It is something I can imagine only too vividly.
I look forward to the next 2 parts. I hope to see more world building. Why are animals extinct? What led to this? What do societies outside of Earth look like? They are hinted at, but not shown to us. And, what is the Clockmaster’s work, and why is Felix the only one to continue it?
Many, many questions. I look forward to reading the answers.
Also, there is a polar bear who is sort of the hero of the entire thing. Who wouldn’t want to read about that???
I was given this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review, and as part of the Street Team for M.C. Frank.