While perusing the “also viewed by” selections that Amazon provided on one of my own stories (I was either looking at THE INN or at the recently-free JACK’O’LANTERN and Other Stories) I came across a couple of selections that were listed as free. The covers on two in particular grabbed me (plus the fact that they were free) so I investigated further, and upon a cursory read of the description I downloaded both. (Hey, it cost me nothing, right?)
Here’s the Amazon description for Kate Wrath’s book E:
Life is harsh. It makes no exceptions. Not even for the innocent.
Outpost Three: a huddle of crumbling buildings choked by a concrete wall. Cracked pavement, rusted metal, splintering boards. Huge robotic Sentries police the streets, but the Ten Laws are broken every time one turns its back.
Eden is determined, smart, and a born survivor. Stripped of her memories and dumped on the streets of the Outpost, slavers and starvation are only the beginning of her problems. A devastating conflict is coming that threatens to consume her world and tear her newfound family apart.
Does that make you want to read it? It worked for me. I like dystopian fiction. I’m not sure exactly why, but I’m a sucker for futuristic extrapolations. And the description gave me some of those: an Outpost (this being #3, I’m curious about the others), robotic Sentries (advanced AI tech?), the Ten Laws (political commentary?), and crumbling infrastructure (again, political commentary?). It also promises an interesting character with a lot at stake in Eden (hence the title “E?”).
I’ve started HORNS by Joe Hill, but it’s a paper version, and I can’t read it in bed. So out comes the Kindle, and the first thing there is Wrath’s novel. So I opened it up, and started reading.
Kate Wrath grabbed me from the first paragraph. “I wake up in a box of iron. I know nothing, remember nothing. There is one thought imprinted on my consciousness: You have been erased.” From there it is compelling reading. A picture of a society comes out through her protagonist’s (Eden’s) experiences as she struggles to survive in those first moments after finding herself deposited in this area like so much garbage. The author uses language beautifully to convey the character and setting but she never loses sight of the story and plot as things set up.
I wanted to find out more about the society and more about Eden herself.
It isn’t a perfect novel, but what is? I just finished NOS4A2 by the acclaimed Joe Hill, and it was far from a perfect novel. For me, for my reading experience, Wrath’s E was the better novel. So what makes it flawed? For me (and your mileage may vary depending on where you come from as a reader), the novel began to suffer from some pacing problems at about the same time as the romantic triangle between Eden, Matt (who runs Outpost 3 and who doesn’t seem to be a good person) and Jonas (her protector, a man with secrets) came into full swing. Suddenly Eden’s thoughts turned from survival and from her family and to her feelings for these men more and more. For me, it bogged down the narrative. I liked the problem-focused style of the first half better. For me, it seemed like it changed Eden from this strong force of nature to … something else.
It wasn’t a fatal flaw in any sense. The story continued to progress, just at a slightly slower pace, and finally wrapped up in a sensible, satisfying conclusion. I immediately downloaded Book 2, Evolution, and am already a few pages into it.
One question I had as I read was, “Is this a young adult novel, or does it aim for an adult audience?” I felt that it pretty much worked on the YA level as well as on an adult level, but usually the protagonist in YA is a teen. (Thinking of Katniss and Tris here.) In this book, I had the idea that Eden is a beautiful 20-something woman. Maybe early 20’s, but not exactly a teenager. Maybe I’m wrong. In the end, it didn’t make a difference.
I’ll be posting a quickie version of this review on Amazon (when I get around to it) and will likely be giving the book five stars. I think it deserves that rating, even if it weren’t a first novel. I hope that the rest of the series can keep up the standard.