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Formats
Kindle Edition eBooks Details
  • 01/2019
  • 1794205551 B07LCVG6QT
  • 276 pages
  • $5.99
Paperback Details
  • 01/2019
  • 1794205551 1794205551
  • 276 pages
  • $7.99
Athena's Choice

Adult; Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror; (Market)

In this sci-fi debut, men have gone extinct, and one woman must decide how society should continue.

"A daring book that will stay in readers’ minds long after the final page."
--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Plot/Idea: 7 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 7 out of 10
Character/Execution: 7 out of 10
Overall: 7.75 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: In some ways, Boostrom's Athena's Choice is the best kind of page-turner, a mystery that's more than just a whodunit. Instead, the questions that the characters uncover concern how life in the North American Union of 2099 got the way that it is--and whether the protagonist should take radical action to alter a utopian future that is missing a crucial piece. The philosophical mystery and the mysteries inherent in the worldbuilding all prove more compelling than the actual shoe-leather mystery driving the scenes in the first four-fifths of the novel. Boostrom has constructed a fascinating world centered on a speculative quandary, but his scenes often tend toward the perfunctory, lacking suspense or meaningful action taken by the protagonist. 

Prose/Style: One of the novel's key strengths is the inventive miscellany of records Boorstrom invents to flesh out his world. Readers learn about "the Y-Fever" of 2050 and the women-only world that rose over the next half century from excerpts from homework assignments, wikis, speeches, spa ads, news reports, rejection notices, and even memories written out in film-script form. Generally, one document follows each chapter of traditional third-person narrative. The records reveal both the world and the author's talent for mimicry of official speech, and some key documents cleverly advance the story. The surrounding narrative chapters feel thinly imagined by comparison, such as the short tenth chapter, which only moves Athena from the car and into an elevator. Dialogue is crisp and sometimes memorable, though the dialogue tags sometimes are strained.

Originality: The provided documents, the worldbuilding, and the conundrum Athena faces in the final pages all are strikingly original. The premise of a world without men might seem familiar, but Boostrom's treatment of it is shrewd and surprising. That said, the revelations in the mystery never build to a satisfying jolt, not even a sudden murder.

Character Development: The narrative builds to the choice promised by the title, with Athena faced with the decision of whether or not to repopulate the planet with men after half a century without them. In fact, Boostrom ends the book without offering a definitive answer, although he does drop strong hints. Unfortunately, the novel doesn't steep us in Athena's thoughts and feelings enough for readers to come to know her or her thinking, or for her choice to feel either inevitable or surprising. The first chapters paint her as a sort of everygirl who doodles men as she daydreams, but once she gets caught up in the mystery, the novel no longer details her internal life. Athena is present in every scene, but she only drives a few--the most compelling.

Date Submitted: August 16, 2019

Reviews
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

In this sci-fi debut, men have gone extinct, and one woman must decide how society should continue.

It’s 2099, and 19-year-old Athena Vosh lives in the Algonquin Forest Zone of the North American Union. Her main source of income is her Citizen’s Benefit stipend, but she wants to become a landscape painter. She lives with her partner, Nomi James, who designs computer programs for “massage implants.” Both women routinely print clothing and food and interact with their Advanced Artificially-Intelligent Scheduler and Home Assistant. But the strangest thing about their world is that there are no men in it. The last one died in 2051 from Y-Fever, a disease created to kill terrorists that mutated and killed every man on Earth, including transgender men, as well as some women. A company called Helix has been trying to find a cure, so that men might someday return. When someone steals an incomplete map of a fever-immune “Lazarus Genome” from Helix’s mainframe, Capt. Valerie Bell of Public Safety investigates. Oddly, the world’s most powerful artificial intelligence, the Third Core, enigmatically suggests to Bell’s supervisor that Athena is vital to solving the case. Meanwhile, Athena has been painting pictures of a ruined, vine-covered building that’s stuck in her head. She soon travels to Chicago, the North American Union’s capital, for an interview with Capt. Bell. As Athena dreams of the mysterious building, and of the phrase “Original Sin is Real,” she grapples with being a “Lonely Heart”—a woman who yearns for men to return.

Boostrom’s tale is fueled by sharp dialogue and challenging ideas, and it’s an invigorating read in an age of political and cultural division. His fictional world, with its population loss, nuclear terrorism, and risen oceans, is futuristic but familiar; rather than swiping right on a dating app, women swipe right in midair while using a contact lens–based web interface to schedule fertility consultations. This future is also apparently much safer without men: “Crime rates in the NAU were below 1%.” Boostrom frequently references famous paintings to emphasize Athena’s chosen field; his most poignant nod is to René Magritte’s “Clairvoyance,” which shows a man staring at an egg but painting a bird. According to Athena, this man does what she lacks the talent to do—“he’s viewing all of the egg’s future-promise and potential, fully brought to life.” The first two-thirds of the novel are a taut sci-fi mystery, but the last portion fearlessly interrogates the roots of maleness. The book presents 2099 as a near utopia, aside from a rising suicide rate, which could imply that most women are saints, but for the evil to which men drive them; however, the author also has the Third Core say that "some women will be more dangerous than the average man."

A daring book that will stay in readers’ minds long after the final page.

Formats
Kindle Edition eBooks Details
  • 01/2019
  • 1794205551 B07LCVG6QT
  • 276 pages
  • $5.99
Paperback Details
  • 01/2019
  • 1794205551 1794205551
  • 276 pages
  • $7.99

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