A boy from the wrong-side of the tracks falls in love with the daughter of an Ambassador, on-board a space-station sent to colonize Europa, kept apart by social and physical boundaries.
Zachary Connor, a teenaged scavenger who lives with his father in a shanty-town located in the bowels of space-station Galilei. He discovers an intercom (smartphone) that contains images of a girl called Rosa Kade from Overworld, and a video recording of her dancing. By chance, his father is contracted to do some repair work near the Kade residence in Overworld. Zachary takes the opportunity to tag along. He takes the opportunity to sneak away and have a look at the Kade family home, only to be confronted by Rosa. Despite their difference, the two are intrigued by each other and Rosa gives Zachary a working intercom and then proceeds to make video calls. In the meantime, Zachary starts to notice strangers in Underworld, with one young man his age assigned to him as his new partner. As Zachary’s attraction to Rosa increases, there are forces at work that will not only attempt to keep them apart, but will destroy Zachary’s world.
Siddiq’s world-building is startling fresh. The Galilie space station is a cross between an interstellar research base and a colony ship. Underworld is dirty, gritty and dark, reminiscent of a mining town, in stark contrast to the ultra-modern Overworld, with its steel and glass buildings, open promenades, separated by layers of engineering, pipe works, ducts and vents. Even the people reflect the different environs, with the Underworlders looking malnourished and dressed in steel shod boots and overalls, and the Overworlders full-fleshed, clean and with room for fashion. In addition to the humans, Siddiq’s world also features robots and androids, ranging from machines with clear industrial uses to cyborgs that could pass themselves off as human.
The characterisation in Disconnect is probably Siddiq’s forte. Zachary comes across as a resilient young man, bought up by a father who is distant but caring at the same time. Zachary’s need to make himself useful to his community, his almost single-minded focus on achieving his goals and his obsession with the beautiful Rosa makes him someone easy to empathise with. Rosa, on the other hand is the waif that has been kept away from society and pines for friendship and the affection that is lacking from her parents.
The story is paced beautifully, allowing the readers enough time to grow comfortable with the characters, to experience the anxiety and growing love for Rosa within Zach and then to introduce higher levels of conflict, before digging the knife in and giving the tale a twist. What does let the book down somewhat is the strange turn of phrase and odd sentence structuring, which makes it difficult to understand what Siddiq is trying to get across. This is however Siddiq’s first novel and it is hoped that the next two instalments (already published) improve on these areas.
Overall, this is a fairly good read, with enough emotional context and plot development to keep you interested and engaged within Siddiq’s rather unique setting. The flow of the writing is somewhat broken by the author’s clumsy attempt at effecting peculiar word arrangements, but not so much so as to make it unreadable. The story telling is powerful enough to care about what happens to them to pick up the next book in the series.