Author: Elizabeth Guizzetti
My copy: 48fourteen, 2015 (ebook)
Blurb (as used on Amazon):
Due to overpopulation, lack of natural resources, no public education, and a surplus of political bickering, Earth is a cesspool and our solar system’s colonies have failed. Nevertheless, outside our solar system, exploration has thrived.
Encouraged by the conquest of Kipos, idealistic dreamers look beyond Earth to build a utopia from the abandoned Lunar Colony Serenitatis. Industrialists reconstruct the colony, but struggle to turn a profit while encouraging scientific discovery.
Brimming with hope despite intense uncertainty and physical hardship, the impoverished Ella Sethdottier follows rumors of plentiful jobs on the moon. On roads fraught with danger, she discovers Earth is a bigger place than she ever imagined, but Serenitatis is little more than a prison colony. Ella forges unlikely friendships with corrupted androids and the quixotic prison doctor, Ian Whitlatch, who champions equality and rights for inmates. Amid corruption and nobility, tragedy and victory, the fate of the colony hangs precariously in the balance.
I was really lucky to start reading this novel before it was published and I had to dust off my Kindle before starting this. As far as I know, this has now been published and can be purchased in paperback if you wish, but it was a nice change for me to read an ebook. This novel is the second in the Other Systems universe, but it is not a sequel and can be read as a stand alone novel (although I’m definitely interested in checking out the first novel Other Systems).
I love utopian/dystopian novels and I really enjoyed this one. Life on Earth is hellish for the majority: there is homelessness on an incomprehensible scale, a constant threat of violence, murder and rape and education is virtually non-existent. And that’s just the humans. The reader is immediately aware that the humans of the novel share their world with androids who litter the Earth, corrupted and damaged, silently staring into space (literally!) after being abandoned when the humans left to colonise space the first time around. Dystopia and space = a win-win for me!
We are introduced to Ellie Sethdottier early on in the novel, when she is only four years old and it clear this little girl is to be the protagonist. Now don’t be fooled: just because the main character is a sweet little girl does not mean that this novel is suitable for young ones, because it really is not! I wasn’t sure if having such a young main character would work, but Ellie as a character is fantastic: she is innocently naive to things but resilient, brave and determined, and never loses her faith to find the good in others or her unshakable kindness. Ellie helped me stay interested in the novel because I had to find out what was going to happen to her. She felt like a little sister and I found myself genuinely concerned about her fate, and I really enjoyed watching her grow into woman.
I really loved the approach to AI in the novel. Just like humans, there are different levels of intelligence amongst the androids. The reader discovers that during the 27th century the androids with human level intelligence are marooned on along with the humans when the Evolved AI can no longer stand to live amongst such limited beings and travel into space. Vasili-Gaston-Rosalind-Dureau is one of the androids left behind; I say one but Vasili-Gaston-Rosalind-Dureau really is four consciousnesses housed in one physical body. Unlike a lot of other science fiction novels I’ve read, the androids are not discriminated against because they are not human. In theory this is supposed to be the practise, but on Earth the humans shy away from the corrupted and broken androids, although this may be because they have their own problems to worry about.
This novel also addresses other relevant social issues. The question of gender and sexuality is dealt with excellently. There are three recognised genders: male, female and pangender; what I think is great about the way Guizzetti deals with this is that she doesn’t shave the issue in your face or down your throat. The novel approaches pangender as something which is so normal that it’s only mentioned in passing and I love this because this is how it should be. Being pangender should not be a massive deal because it should be 100% accepted. Similarly, the novel includes heterosexual and homosexual couples and both are equal and suffer no prejudice. It’s a shame that such levels of acceptance may only be found so far in the future.
The novel, to my surprise, has a happy ending. I was actually really rooting for Ian an Ellie to be happy together (which is really unlike me) and I even got a little bit emotional (which is even more unlike me)! Again I think I was so moved by the ending because I really connected to Ellie, and Ian is interesting and a very likeable character too. The only thing that would have made this book a complete 5/5 for me would be more exploration of how and why the Earth became such a dystopian place to live. I love a bit of background setting and I would have felt more connected to the story knowing more about its’ past. However I’ve yet to read the first novel based in this universe so more may be be revealed in that one.
Overall, I would highly recommend this novel for all you sci-fi lovers. It’s got space, androids, one bad-ass FEMALE main character and a genuinely interesting take on what makes up a perfect society. Not to mention a happy-ending that is moving and cheeseless. A super science fiction novel!