A plague has overtaken the earth, and divided the people into Safe Landers and outsiders.
The Safe Lands lie behind high walls and are anything but safe. Almost everyone is infected with the plague. There’s hyper-surveillance and -media. There are enforcers, informants, marks, tracking chips, rebels, and human breeding programs. Age limits are imposed on citizens, who are then “liberated”, though no one knows if it’s execution, graduation to the next phase of life, reincarnation, or something else.
Deprived of advanced technology and ultra-modern conveniences, outsiders live free, hunting, trading with other villages, their lives a cross between the remnants of our day and the latter days of the Old West.
What happens when an outsider betrays his village to the enforcers? How do those villagers navigate the Safe Lands, survive, and regain their freedom?
Book 1 of The Safe Lands, Captives by Jill Williamson, presents a people grown so comfortable with their disease that they’ve ceased trying to find a cure, and look on outsiders as providers of uninfected children, a commodity to be bought and used. Women are required to report to the Harem for impregnating, and the men are required to donate. Children never know families, but belong to the state. Once citizens reach forty, they’re “liberated”. No one belongs to himself.
While science fiction, the story is set in the near future, in a believable world populated by flawed characters; even “the good guys” aren’t perfect, and “the bad guys” are just people. Likable, even. Some characters I liked, some I didn’t, and some I wished were of stronger fiber — but they couldn’t be, because they behaved too much like me.
But more about the characters later.
A few years ago, I read her fantasy novel By Darkness Hid, and liked it well enough. However, Williamson seems more sure of herself with Captives. Of all the dystopian science fiction I’ve read recently, this book actually engaged me.
But I was skittish, I’ll admit.
The prologue was good, but then came Chapter One, and I feared Captives was going to be teen romance in a science fiction setting. But, although there are romantic relationships among characters, and though love is one of the main drivers of the plot, this is a well-rounded story.
It’s also a well-thought-out story. That may seem like an obvious statement, but a lot of stories are great ideas poorly executed. However, in Captives I encountered no obvious plot holes, and the story went in unexpected directions. Despite a couple major plotlines that were left open for subsequent entries in the series, this novel could almost stand alone.
Characters express faith or lack thereof, depending on upbringing and life experience, and there are some thought-provoking questions presented in Captives: to whom do I belong? where do I belong? when does technology or medicine become good or evil? who controls my life? what is freedom? what is family? what is truth?
I’ll talk more about the characters tomorrow. Meantime, check out these other stops on the CSFF Blog Tour:
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Morgan L. Busse
Emma or Audrey Engel
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Asha Marie Pena
* I’m on the road for the next few days, and this posted a day earlier than the blog tour is scheduled (Monday-Wednesday, August 12-14). Hope y’all will forgive me, and just roll with it.