Humanity has fled Earth on slaved super-ships known as Eden, unable to die, unable to flourish, ruled over by a benevolent AI. Into this strange half-life comes Harbinger, a man out of time and out of place.
Arc and the Human Council rule on Echelon, where life is idyllic and carefree. Any who disagree with the rule of Arc are banished permanently to the Under. Many of these are criminals, but some like Leema and Argus are political dissidents, who work tirelessly to bring down the wall that separates the two ships. They discover an unopened pod within the bowels of the Under, containing what appears to be a human that is not on ship’s roster. Further investigation reveals that this person is more than just human. He is the key to bringing down the barrier that separates the two ships.
The man in the pod is known only as Harbinger and is characterized as a man out of time, with 21st century sensibilities and in awe of this new world and society he finds himself in. He is inquisitive by nature and has a strong morality. It is these two qualities that guide his actions and his ultimate decision to take a hand in the future of Eden.
The setting is as bleak as any post-apocalyptic world, but possesses a few unique qualities. For one thing, the book is set in two ships, docked together in deep space. The interior is made to look like an old Soviet city in the Under and Rome at his height in Echelon. Humanity is kept perpetually alive by nanotechnology. Echelon is rich in resources and in the Under is impoverished. Hardly any of it feels like the inside of a spaceship.
To start off with I found the writing style a little annoying, specifically in the way sentences were structures and the word choices. The premise isn’t that unique either, bearing some similarities to the Divided Worlds books by Imran Siddiq. Despite that, I found myself coming back to the book, perhaps due to the oddity of the world design, or the Buck Rogers style man-out-of-time character, I’m still not sure. But trust me, it gets more interesting as you progress. This is a dystopian novel in every sense of the world and this carries through into its plot and the fate of the characters. Even when the character seems to be serving his purpose, more questions arise than answers, down to its ‘twist’ ending.
Having read it, I was left with a sense of disquiet, like a wound that is almost healed but still itches like crazy. I’m not sure I want to return to this world, and I’m not sure that I enjoyed reading this book. What I am sure of is that I’m still thinking about it. Perhaps that is because it resonates with the situation in the world, specifically the way the Palestinians and been walled off from Israel and Egypt, or the way our world operates with the privileged enjoying the bounties of the world and the under-privileged trying to scratch together an existence.
This might not be the most exciting or enthralling book you will read this year, but it certainly is a thoughtful one that will leave you reflecting on the injustices of our society.