Book Review: The Emerald Forge by Manda Benson

The Emerald ForgeMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Emerald Forge is a return to the world of Pilgrennon’s Children,in which an unscrupulous scientist experimented on human embryos to combine technology with the human mind. The first was lobotimized, the second and third developed severe autism and the fourth turned into a sociopath, but the fifth, with the help of a prototype synapse resulted in Dana Provine.
But the world has changed since the events of Benson’s original, Pilgrennon’s Beacon. A Meritocracy has risen to replace Western Liberal Democracy in Britain, and Jananin Blake, Dana’s genetic mother, has become a powerful figure in the new political climate. Dana herself has returned to her adoptive parents along with her autistic brother, Cale, and is struggling for acceptance in her local high school without giving away her secret; the ability to communicate with anything that gives off a signal. But everything changes when she encounters a cybernetic wyvern that has been sent to kill her. Dana traces the wyvern’s source signal to a nightmarish place known as the Emerald Forge, where someone is carrying out illegal experiments on animals and using the very same synapses that flow through Dana’s blood.
The Emerald Forge is set in an alternate world in which an unwitting terrorist attack has changed the socio-political structure of Britain. The author attempts to explore the theme of meritocratic system, drawing out the potential benefits and ultimately, the flows in the system that lead to the dilemmas that are central to this story. The genre that this book would fit well in would be cyberpunk, and yet the cultural aspects of cyberpunk are starkly missing from the gritty world-building of this series. The characters are unique and immediately iconic, as is the author’s style which sets this book apart from other dystopian tales written in the past twenty years.
The science and politics that form the components of the world-building in this story could have been handled with a lighter touch, making the physics and the higher concepts easier to grasp, but despite this shortcoming this book is definitely a hidden gem that deserves respect and a big following.

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