Sunday, March 23, 2014

In The Mood For Romantic SF? Try D.L. Jackson's THE BOOK OF EVA

THE BOOK OF EVA (Clone #1) by D.L. Jackson is a dystopian, post-apocalyptic novella for romantic SF readers. I'm going to tag it for you in a very general way (because saying almost anything specific about it would lead to spoilers), but first, here's the cover and description:

When a world leader’s daughter meets a clone, a doomed love affair begins. 

In the year 2087, a great war erupts on the planet and a struggle to survive begins. One hundred-fifty years later, the continent of America is divided into two factions, Aeropia and The United Regions. There is a shortage of food and an abundance of illness, leaving most to live on the scraps of the wealthy who wallow in excess.

This is the world Olivia Braun inherits. Sick from birth, she wakes up from surgery with a new heart, only to discover she is the youngest president of Aeropia, an empire that has created and used clones to maintain their position of supremacy since the war. However, Olivia’s rise to power is no accident. Before her transplant, she conspired with a clone to free those enslaved, but the outcome is not what she expected.

Now, enemies hide among the population, and even friends can no longer be trusted. Olivia must make a choice that will decide the fate of an empire. Before her tale of corruption, forbidden love and war ends, the mighty will be brought to their knees.

By a clone.

Read the first chapter excerpt here.

D.L. Jacskson blogged about THE BOOK OF EVA at Backward Momentum in December 2013. This excerpt provides an overview of her authorial intent:

This story spoke to me, and demanded to be told, but in a way that is completely different from anything I've written. I have to say it was the biggest challenge I had to date with my writing and forced me to stretch my mind and knowledge. In many instances I found I had to put a square peg in a round hole. I'm sure my editors can attest to how crazy the format made them--at times, it drove me nuts. It is my hopes that my readers not only see what is obvious, but read between the lines and find what is hidden or implied. I am a cerebral author and wanted a cerebral story. If anything, I hope this story makes you think and ponder things you might otherwise not.

She also noted that the story is told in a “non-linear format” and “is told primarily in first person and third person narrative.”

Ms. Jackson was kind enough to send me a copy, although based on her post I was expecting a non-romantic SF story. That’s how I approached it, and even when certain elements began to turn hopeful I still refused to change my expectations. However, by the end I discovered it was—in my opinion—romantic SF. Hence this post. :)

(Side note: with all due respect to the cover designer, IMHO the cover isn't the strongest indicator of the story's sophisticated level. So, dear passengers, please don't let the cover be a deterrent if you're at all interested in this novella.)

I found the non-linear structure accessible and an interesting change. That said, I was giving it a close read. Skim this one at your peril. :)

THE BOOK OF EVA has two romance subplots. One is of the forbidden nature kind. There are a few love scenes and the heat level is on the mild-moderate side. One of the romances ends on a note of hope, although there are still obstacles facing the couple. Still, I strongly recommend approaching the story as romantic SF. It includes some romance genre conventions and thus has cross-over appeal, but is very much a hybrid tale.

THE BOOK OF EVA is social science fiction with some futuristic tech. The plot is character-driven with political threads woven throughout. There are only a few action scenes. I agree with the author about its cerebral feel. The characters are interesting and I cared about what happened to them, but the story's main focus is on certain ideas and themes.

This story features heroines with agency. They make decisions that drive the plot, take risks, face dangerous situations, and endure many sacrifices. So if you hear of someone looking for SF stories with empowering female protagonists, point them toward THE BOOK OF EVA.

A main SF trope in the story is clones and how they’re treated, which are as sub-humans and slaves. Some of the scenes are disturbing and unsettling, as they should be given the concepts explored. As the blurb hints at, a rebellion is brewing and a clone is involved.

There are vivid visuals in places, particularly having to do with scenes of violence or the aftermath of violence. After reading one particular scene, I recall being pleasantly surprised and thinking, “Wow, THE BOOK OF EVA doesn’t shy away from presenting its mature themes.” The violence isn’t unusual for science fiction, however. Its presence will be a plus or minus depending on your threshold for vivid description. (For me, the scenes made me want more of the same in sci-fi romance.) 

I did end THE BOOK OF EVA with some questions. Given that this wasn’t an epic length book, a bit more backstory about the setting and a few other elements would have been welcome. I also wish there’d been more racial diversity. For a futuristic Earth, the world felt very "white." It would have been interesting for a story like this to explore the issue of clones of color—would they have suffered more severe racism than their white counterparts? Were POC even cloned in the first place once the technology became available?

To sum up, here are my tags in a nutshell: dystopian SF, post-apocalyptic setting, clones, experimental, political, romantic SF, non-linear format, strong female protagonists, social science fiction, mild-moderate heat level, rebellion.

I’m glad I read THE BOOK OF EVA and I admire D.L. Jackson for taking an experimental approach. Perhaps she'll write more sci-fi romance for us with this level of intensity? :) At the very least, I hope this book gains more readers.

Joyfully yours,