Compile: Quest by Ronel van Tonder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC of this book!
I was initially mainly interested in the cover, believe it or not. I judged a book by its cover. I love computer fiction. What can I say? Was I disappointed when it didn't quite turn out the way I thought it would?
Hell, no. First impressions aren't everything or even most of a thing when it comes to books. We look at how it makes us feel and whether it impresses the hell out of us... and I was very impressed.
First of all, this is a dual-character novel and neither have much or anything to do with one another, but don't let that dissuade you. Both give us a hell of a story about South Africa three hundred years in the future under a dome and on the other side of it. Both leave our main characters, Peppermint and Jinx, severely limited in options and personal freedom. It's dark and claustrophobic even if the walls aren't exactly falling in upon them.
The world-building is as much a main character as these two women. Peppermint should really be part of the inside utopia, but she's soon kidnapped, plugged into a massive AI, is put through massive tests and is generally turned into a performing animal for the gifts she seems to possess.
Getting there is just as interesting as the conflict, and there's a wide and oddly familiar world for us to explore.
On the outside, we're left with dictatorships and hardship and military life. Jinx must deal with many losses and burning hatred and the desire for revenge so strong that she voluntarily goes through a particularly female type of hell to get it.
The two women couldn't be more different, but the drive for freedom and agency is always burning strong.
One thing that really stands out for me is the fact that this is one of quite a few new authors coming out of South Africa that all deal with social media, SF, and interesting fantasy overtones. I'd definitely recommend this for any fans of Lauren Beukes or a darker SF with undertones of YA that still remains quite adult and disturbing.
I'm happy to be surprised! Neither the title nor the cover really does it justice. :)
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