The stakes are high, as the sentient super-city Haplopol mysteriously reappears after disappearing for centuries. One of several cities that once caused an apocalyptic event, designed to promote the well-being of its citizens but given limits to its geographical expansion, Haplopol and its larger sister-city Diplopol use hallucinogenic technology to turn humans into obedient tools dedicated to its expansion. Otto quickly establishes the ethical problems surrounding the cities as Dryden's knowledge makes him an asset for a power-hungry general and Lexi is chosen to help the Observers oppose a potential new apocalypse.
There are various side-quests along the way as the opposition seeks to awaken other lost super-cities to help them and Proliferation offers up betrayals, surprising twists, and thoughtfully articulated moral conundrums. Otto builds tension as his protagonists cross paths, resolving both of their personal story arcs while leaving room for future adventures. He does assume readers come to the novel with a certain familiarity with his world, as he introduces details like the technology-devouring creatures called retchers without much explanation, but Otto's empathy for his flawed characters grounds the technical details of this world. The result is a multi-layered narrative that doesn't skimp on action and intrigue while introducing a series of complex, relevant ethical problems.
Takeaway:Vivid post-apocalyptic world-building and engaging ethical dilemmas set this thoughtful science-fiction epic apart.
Great for fans of: Thomas Harlen, Alastair Reynolds.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B
"While there's plenty of engaging action, the novel is also a thematically rich, entertaining read."
"Proliferation is sprawling, immersive post-apocalyptic fiction, packed with intrigue and ideas."