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H.S. Gilchrist
The End of the World
In a dystopian future under Technocratic rule, Animkii and Mica enter a post-apocalyptic showdown against an ancient, alien god to save Earth from annihilation.
Gilchrist's debut, the first book in her Primordial Engine series, kicks off with a mix of breathtaking action and terrifying scenes of horror, and it never lets up from there. In a post-apocalyptic world where a group of Technocrats rules the remaining cities with an iron fist, a scavenger named Mica is at the mercy of a fanatical blood cult who believe that her dreams hold the key to the resurrection of a godlike being named the After Lord. As Mica realizes that she has terrible psychic abilities, the Technocrat battle drone D-2301, a once-human automaton now “fully machine, lacking any individual intelligence,” is wounded in battle, and soon makes a shocking discovery: her injuries, while threatening her life, have also allowed her to reclaim her missing humanity, memories, and self. She is no longer D-2301 but Animkii.

These two become uneasy allies after both escape the city. The drone, or "mod" (modified human) Animkii, had been banished an indigenous tribe for breaking a taboo. Mica, meanwhile, survived a plague brought to her family by a different mod and hates and distrusts Animkii as a result. Gilchrist brings urgency and inventive power to the cast’s convictions and resentments, the worldbuilding driving character and offering opportunity for vivid, unsettling setpieces. Their partnership takes them to the bowels underneath the city and its dens of corruption, the sterile and dehumanizing halls of the Technocrats themselves, and finally to the bitter cold of the Witherlands, the home of Animkii's people.

Gilchrist builds to memorable twists before the climactic, world-shaking battle as they strive to prevent the ascent of the After Lord. The leads often face harrowing situations, but Gilchrist finds clever ways to extricate them. Her attention to detail makes each environment vividly spring to life, but never at the expense of narrative momentum or the protagonists' complex backstories. Reversals and betrayals shock but make sense given the clues the reader is provided. Despite the cliffhanger ending, GIlchrist still provides a thoroughly satisfying first entry.

Takeaway: Standout post-apocalyptic debut of modded humans and Technocrat overlords.

Comparable Titles: C. Robert Cargill’s Sea of Rust, Hailey Piper’s No Gods For Drowning.

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