That arresting setup kicks off a tense, polished thriller of revolutionary resistance and high-stakes chip removal as Will, a member of the Asheville, NC, chapter of the “Scalpels,” faces feds, killers, racists, and—in richly unpredictable scenes—an AI named Iris who can summon up artificial realities. She’s seemingly the product of a court-mandated Aurora implant, knows his Scalpel secret, and apparently has an agenda all her own. Raleigh intercuts this mysterious setup with characters facing their own engaging travails in a climate change-ravaged Arizona, where gangs work a black market for water.
Scenes of violence tend toward the wrenching. One unforgettable scene finds Aja tapping into Will’s fears: in a vision he can’t escape, Will, always aware his brown skin can get him into trouble from white men with power, sees himself bullwhipped by Confederate goons, passing out from the pain only to be awakened by his Aurora and forced to suffer again. Flower deftly blends contemporary fears with dark truths about the American past and its possible tragic future in a story with mysteries to burn, freedom at its heart, and serious depth of feeling.
Takeaway: This superior dystopian thriller takes on AI, climate change, and pressing issues of freedom.
Great for fans of: Omar El Akkad’s American War, Cory Doctorow.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A-
Embark on a whirlwind of feverish exhileration in this post-apocalyptic page-turner.
Raleigh’s smart apocalyptic novel delves into a credible near future in which climate change and AI reshape the world and call the very essence of humanity into question… A thought-provoking and plausible speculative tale.