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Whisper Gatherers A Sci-fi Dystopian Adventure: Book 1 in the The Song of Forgetfulness Post Apocalyptic Sci-fi Cli-fi Series Kindle Edition
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Adara is a girl in her late teens. She isn’t beautiful and is often teased by her classmates, but her resilience is her strength and helps her overcome their taunting. She has a brother named Deogol who is bound to his computer and rarely leaves the house, and an aunt who was once a member of the security team in charge of protecting the “Cityplace” where Adara lives. Theirs is a relatively peaceful life where they’ve adapted to their current world by keeping clean and separating themselves from the outside world where “Carnies,” a group of traveling players who are more destructive than entertaining, and the “Praisbees,” devout followers of Jesus roam freely. The fence surrounding Cityplace does a good job of keeping them out, but one day there is a breach and that’s when the book takes off.
Adara has a gift for calling birds, a precious source of meat in this dystopian world, and she has kept it hidden in order to protect not only her, but the birds as well. Certain circumstances lead to the discovery of her talent, and while the city is assembled to hear about it, outsiders crash the gathering, forcing Adara to run for her life. The outsiders wreak havoc on the city, where confusion reigns over who is responsible – the Carnies, the Praisbees, or Agro, a powerful militant group. As this is happening, Adara and her aunt strive to keep order and keep the citizens of Cityplace alive, all the while dealing with an uncooperative Deogol, who is harboring a secret that might lead to the end of Cityplace.
This story is the first book in the series, but I read the second one first and loved it. As with that one, the language took some getting used to, but I soon found myself immersed in the story. I will admit that I sometimes found it hard to follow. Scenes jumped around, and at times I had to stop to try to figure out what was going on. Still, there was plenty of action and by the end, I was invested in the story and Adara’s future. Beware that since this is the first part, you are left wondering what will happen next.
I was immediately reminded of Russell Hoban’s book “Ridley Walker,” which is also laid in a future dystopian world and is written in a very carefully constructed future dialect of English that is quite a tour de force. McDonagh’s version is not so fully conceived, but in its own way it’s very effective.
I can find some things to criticize in this book. For example, all animals are supposed to have been destroyed except birds (and apparently insects), and yet drinking milk and eating cheese are mentioned, so some kind of dairy animal must exist somewhere. Also, the “Carnies” – those who crave meat – are shown chewing on bones – do we assume they are cannibals? And Cityplace is pretty high tech with widespread use of electricity, “comps,” and all kinds of automatic devices like the ones that spray disinfectant (the people became clean-freaks in order to defeat the plagues that decimated the population). Where are the factories that make these high tech devices, who maintains them, and where do the materials come from to fabricate them? There seems to be no connection to the wider world – this place called NotSoGreatBritishAlbion seems to exist in a vacuum, which might be possible, of course, if the devastation included wide swaths of the larger world. But the Agros, who are trying to take over Cityplace, have bombs and protective gear and yet seem to live apart from civilization.
Only one date is ever mentioned in the book – the Great Plague of 2086. If 2086 is meant to be in our own century and doesn’t reference some other starting point, then we’re apparently doomed to a complete meltdown pretty soon. I prefer my future history laid much farther in the future. After all, somebody born today would only be 71 at that time. Does anybody really believe civilization as we know it will be totally destroyed in 71 years?
In spite of these quibbles (and the fact that the book could use a little more copyediting), I really did enjoy it! It includes some really nice descriptions (“the voluminous skirt that spread around her legs like a thick, pink fog;” she “trundled off quicker than a beetle exposed from underneath a rock”). And a description of the devastated square: “The sun shot down daggers of brightness that illuminated patches of devastation. Split walkway stones jutted upward like mini volcanoes.”
And the characters held my interest, enough for me to give it four stars and enough that I plan to go ahead and read the next volume promptly. I confess, though, that I never figured out why the series is called “The Song of Forgetfulness” (unless it’s simply that all the people have forgotten their past history) or why this volume is called “Whisper Gatherers”!