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Nego Huzcotoq
Severed Roots
In an alternative contemporary reality, Nick Wong is a product of the Children’s Centres –government-run residential schools designed to prevent all forms of patriarchy and help usher in an unprecedented age of world peace. While girls are groomed for leadership, boys are taught subservience. As is the case with most male graduates, Nick’s emotions are stunted and he feels little connection to others. Nevertheless, his innate curiosity and his desire to do the right thing spur him on a perilous quest for Truth –about marriage, family and the need to connect with who we are.
Huzcotoq’s provocative dystopian sci-fi debut is The Handmaid’s Tale in reverse, told from the perspective of a man, or “mankey,” who functions as a second-class citizen in a totalitarian regime run by women where heterosexuality, motherhood, and marriage are illegal. Nick Wong is a gentle, inquisitive rule-following Canadian who has a part-time job as a magician and a few flimsy friendships, but his whole life changes once his friend Beatrice tells him her plans to self-immolate because she can’t be a mother. With the help of his enlightened male friend Morrie, Nick does everything he can to give Beatrice that opportunity, regardless of the risk to himself.

“The Movement” as it’s dubbed, is a result “of an entire species frustrated with the intractable problem of men—what to do with them, how to tame them, how to prevent them from destroying the world,” but in pursuit of this effort, the powers that be put policies in place that prove Orwellian in their degree of inhumanity, like injecting all men with a chemical that erases their sex drive. While the world-building and plot are compelling, the characters come off as somewhat flat, and the dialogue can be occasionally sterile. Still, Severed Roots qualifies as a page-turner, building to some surprises with crisp, polished prose.

The novel’s certain to upset and unsettle, both in its narrative and its depiction of women as oppressors. Memorable dystopian literature reflects back to readers their own reality and throws it into question, and Huzcotoq draws links to fourth-wave feminism, fascism, and the understandable fear that men are on-track to destroy the planet. Contemporary readers don’t have to fear women with power to relate to lines such as “We’re turtles. All of us… withdrawing into our shells while the world runs amok,” and the novel is shrewd enough not to ask readers to presume the worst of contemporary feminists, as it asks, “Didn’t every movement in history aim to create heaven on earth? And didn’t every movement fail?”

Takeaway:Huzcotoq’s provocative novel imagines a future ruled by women, and a man who must break the rules.

Great for fans of: N. Lee Wood’s Master of None, Christina Dalcher's Femlandia.

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