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Ilene Grydsuk
Age of Resolve
It’s been one hundred years since the Correction, the great reset that erased the misguided ideology and spurious intentions of an ancient civilization seemingly bent on destroying itself. The Biodome’s universal moral compass is under attack. Known as the existential virus (EV), she is not to be trifled with. She is judge, jury, and—when need be—executioner. The only cure for EV is an end to the Age of Resolve and a return to ancient times. Seventeen-year-old Everett Steele has just transitioned from high school graduate to official disciple of the new order. After she and fellow Biodome agent Jake Domanso join together in a secret crusade to save EV from annihilation, they become immersed in a high-stakes game of cat and mouse. Can they save humanity from the self-destruction of relative morality and the chaos of free will, or is history destined to repeat itself?
The sniffles suggest you’ve broken rules or behaved immorally in Grydsuk’s heady debut, an ambitious science-fiction story that opens with a denunciation of humanity itself, from a voice purporting to be its creator. “You have been weighed, measured, and found wanting,” humanity is told, deep into our present information age, just before a virus is unleashed upon it. The story itself picks up a century after this “Correction.” Now, humanity is kinder, better caretakers of the planet, and held to universal rather than relative moral standards. It’s ruled by the Biodome, whose series of “existential viruses” (EV)s have infected and wiped out millions of our age’s “incorrigibles” and now serve as a “righting protocol,” sending a virus to individuals who get out of line.

Readers’ guide to this provocative world is Midwestern teen Everett Steele, a recent high school graduate. Setting the novel apart from other visions of a future where free will is threatened, Grydsuk leaves it to readers to work out how this “Age of Resolve”—in which smallpox is weaponized to eliminate “the dregs of humanity in their power suits”—compares to our fractious present. Everett, though, believes in the Biodome, and her plans of a life working in the Department of Animal Welfare get upended when she discovers that powerful people are manipulating EV in cruel experiments.

Grydsuk blends elements of coming-of-age dystopian—or is utopian?—adventure with bold inquiries into free will and the nature of humanity. Would it be moral, the novel asks, to eliminate viruses purportedly crafted by God to root out “fraud and corruption and abuse of power”? The questions have power, and Grydsuk pens crisp, tense scenes of steadfast Everett and Biodome agent Jake, her eventual partner in protecting EV, contending with snakes, secrets, and the new Department of Citizen Safety, who carry ancient weapons called “gun”s. Less arresting are scenes of the seditious scientists themselves and a survey of human atrocities, with historical photos, that runs more than 30 pages, diminishing narrative momentum.

Takeaway: A provocative future where viruses target rulebreakers—and the hero sides with the viruses.

Great for fans of: Kristin Cast’s The Key to Fear, Lauren Beukes.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: B
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-