True Calling by Siobhan Davis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
True Calling by Siobhan Davis
This novel has some good qualities; and I am glad I didn't just totally overlook it. There's a fairly good plot that gets wrapped up with a romance that’s integral to understanding the dystopic nature of the novel. But there are frustrations abounding throughout; not so much with the science, but with nomenclature for the orbital objects and the lack of explanation about them to help the reader understand what it is that lies within the farthest extent of the Low Earth Orbit definition. The author unfortunately refers to the construct as a planet and then goes on to explain that the characters are exploring other planets to the west in the same manner one might explain exploring neighboring continents. Trying to wrap your head around the notion would be quite distracting so I had to give these planets my own bit of spin so I could enjoy the rest of the story.
This story is more about the politics and the power and control of the masses than it is a story about the science. Some disaster has nearly decimated Earth and those who survive take advantage by creating their own ideal governing body. They have grand plans to use the previously designed and constructed 'Planet' Novo to house the future of mankind, for which they hand pick what they feel is the cream-of-the-crop to undergo specialized preparations to be fitted with special devices (Vita) that can monitor their health and a whole lot more. Along with that, selective memories have been wiped with the explanation that that will give them the cleanest possible start to their new utopia. This is an interesting take on how a utopia slides easily to dystopic confusion as the power hungry take advantage of the technology used to supposedly keep everyone healthy and happy. The story itself is marred a bit by language that caused this reader to try to picture an entire planet being within Low Earth Orbit; although that alone might account for some of the disaster that occurred on Earth.
What they live in seems more like those cities in flight from the James Blish’s novels. A massive platform city, with 15 sections. And that’s the image I had to put there in order to push through to the good stuff. Even if it was a spheroid platform with artificial gravity I would have a hard time if it became moon size let alone planet size. Then again when they started exploring other worlds I wasn't sure if that would be real worlds or whether there might be more platforms such as Novo. But for the story we don't need to obsess over how they work because we aren't given that information; it's just unfortunate that the reference to them as being planets begs for some explanation.
The romance could almost be a put-off for the reader, except that it is integral to the plot; and even some of the character action that might seem a bit off, are most easily understood within the context of the intended conflict rather than the superficial one. This is more a story about the slow progression of oppression of the citizens of Novo as they try to follow the directives of their self proclaimed saviors who brought them off Earth to live in this small paradise. As the narrative unfolds, certain things become apparent. It begins with the selective nature of the program as to who is allowed on Novo and the fact that many people get left on the dying Earth. Then there are the implants used to help keep the citizens happy and healthy; even if that involves drugging them to submission. This all evolves into the Calling, which is a time when those of a certain age will undergo mandatory marriage and mandatory pregnancy to populate the rest of the paradise while ignoring the fact that there are still people on the Earth who could be brought up. It's easy to see how this is becoming a repressed society with totalitarian leanings.
The author treats this in a rather light manner, which is fine since the prevailing government is, in fact, treating it that way when they decide to run the whole thing like some sort of reality show. And although the initial struggles seem to be those of the main characters vying to get the one they truly love, while the system seems to be stacked against them; there are larger issues that float around deep below this surface and sometimes float to the top.
For Ariana, who doesn't want to think about marriage or children, this is an inconvenience to her plans for her future; and the circus that evolves from the start to the climax of the matchmaking program, do not afford the reader a flattering view of her character. But there is some depth beneath it all; and that involves some strange dreams that might be memories of things that may have been wiped from her mind by the leaders of the program. When Ariana rebels and other parts of her life are shattered she begins to uncover something more sinister than the overt attempts to set feminism back by hundreds of year.
There’s a possibility that Novo is a proving ground for the technology that will be used elsewhere.
This is the beginning of a series of some sort; so not all of the questions brought into the story will be answered definitively. Often character personal conflicts overshadow the main conflict; making it a bit of a puzzle sometimes to key into all the indicators. Overall the story acquits itself once the threads are drawn tightly, near the end; and the reader can see where things are headed. The reality show distraction has played-out; perhaps the next book can concentrate on the more sinister side of conflict.
I’ll definitely be looking into the next book to see where it all is heading.
The pacing seems a bit off at the beginning because of the focus on the dysfunctional government repopulation program and the second half begins to create a momentum of more exciting moments.
I would recommend this to the SFF fans that like romance and are not too keen on Simon pure science, because the suspension of disbelief gets to be a struggle in the beginning and could distract from the story. Once I got past that and could see the real conflict hanging under the surface, I found it to be written well and reasonably enjoyable.
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