One of the things I think I like most about Curiosity Quills (other than their sending me free e-books to read and review) is their obvious devotion to the first-time author. That is always a risk, since there is no dedicated fandom to boost sales, and no matter how good the editors think a book is, the public is the group needing convincing. So with that rather dubious introduction, let me say that in the case of Jadah McCoy’s Artificial, I suspect there is no need to worry.
Set on the planet Kepler, in 2256 and after an exodus from Earth, the story revolves around a ragtag band of human survivors of a war against their AI servants, and the mutations known as the Cull. Our heroine, Syl, is one of those humans, and in a moment of humanity becomes hunted by the Cull, and finds herself subjected to the same kinds of genetic experiments that resulted in the Cull’s creation. She escapes, and in doing so encounters Bastion, an android gigolo, who is simply trying to keep from being noticed in the current climate where glitches – androids who evidence emotion – are lynched. Bastion is a glitch, and human sympathizer in a climate where that is simply not acceptable – and he needs to weigh his own conscience against the dictates of society.
And wow, there is a lot to unpack there! The background is presented without too much detail (but should be it’s own book – again, I am a total backstory fiend), but with enough to give you the setting and needed information. Which, in a fallen society barely hanging on to existence, is not only an acceptable level of back story, but a realistic situation to find one’s self in. There is a fairly shoehorned-feeling environmental bit in the very beginning, but that is brief, and while it seemed (to me) awkward, forced, and added much later, it has no real impact on the feel of the story, or the subsequent readability. In writing the synopsis paragraph, I noticed that it bears a similarity to the Terminator movies. Hmm. But that is not really an issue to me. If you read/watch enough, everything resembles something in time.
The story starts in the ruins, and takes a bit to get to the main action – longer than I expected, honestly. I had to check to be sure I was reading what I thought I was – it was that unexpected. In hindsight, it works fairly well, but it may cause some negative reviews, since it seems like the description suggests that all of the elements are there from the beginning. Make no mistake – the structure needs to be in this order and style to work, it was just unexpected.
Overall, I quite liked the book. The characters are solid, and if I had some trouble telling two of the humans apart, it was due to them seeming similar at the time in order to heighten their differences later. There is no moment of ‘wait, that makes no damn sense’, and everything marches along smoothly – which is, based on seeing the opposite a lot, obviously not an easy thing to make happen, so well done! There is a fairly serious unresolved plot point, but then this is meant to be a series, so that may come back up in time. Or not – life has these unresolved threads.
I do look forward to the second in the series, and can confidently suggest this to fans of dystopian sci-fi.