by Anela Deen
Publisher: Fine Fables Press
Publication Date: May 20, 2018
Genres: Young Adult
I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
There is only one rule: Never leave the settlement
Nobody remembers when human civilization fell to the living computer known as the Interspace. Trapped within its massive expanse, what remains of humanity struggles to survive. There are no maps to the outer grids, and drones patrol the network. Escape is impossible.
Except seventeen-year-old Sol can access the network's secrets in her dreams. The information comes at a physical cost, but with food and medical shortages threatening her community, it's a small price to pay for survival. The supply runs are also the best way to prove she can still contribute, especially after her recent epilepsy diagnosis took away the role she'd been training for.
When a grave mistake alerts the drones to her trespassing, Sol finds herself running for her life. She never expects to encounter Echo, a stranger who may hold the key to humanity's freedom.
Together, Sol and Echo will attempt to reach the central core of the Interspace and shut down the system. To survive the journey, they will need to evade drones, signal towers, and a dangerous enemy known only as the Override. Even with Sol's access to the network and Echo's incredible abilities, they may still fail. The Interspace is always watching, and if they're discovered, it will mean the final extermination of all mankind.
After a war between the Interspace AI and humans, the Armistice allowed human settlements inside the Interspace, but they’re forbidden from leaving their small part of the network. When the food deliveries abruptly stop, however, Sol (short for Soleil) feels she has no choice but to go searching for the missing shipments. She has an eidetic memory and has been having strange dreams where she can see the network’s schematics, so she’s able to anticipate where the Interspace’s enforces, the drones, will be. When a run goes bad, she’s saved by a strange man with technology she’s never seen before who immediately asks her for directions to the Interspace’s control center. He’s suspicious that Sol seemed to have knowledge of the drones’ routes, and, well, Echo – as the stranger calls himself – is just plain suspicious in general. Sol, caged by her parents’ worries about her epilepsy and what they see as her needless risktaking, makes a bargain with Echo to get him closer to the control center. But as she finds out more about the Interspace and Echo, will her choices lead her back to the world she’s always known or forward to an uncertain future?
“The truth was they had trouble accepting my condition. It wasn’t about my safety, it was about their fear. Fear took away the Custodian position I’d been training years for. I wouldn’t let it ruin our chances at survival. I was more than my illness. Why didn’t they see that? Why weren’t they…proud of me for what I’ve accomplished?
Why don’t you see me? I wanted to ask, but I never did.”
I haven’t read a YA dystopian book in a while, so this was a delightful treat. I especially liked that the human settlements are actually inside the Interspace – a giant computer – so the areas they have to traverse are filled with circuit towers and other computer innards. I loved how character-focused it was, as well. The majority of it is a road trip sort of story with Sol and Echo trying to find the Interspace’s control center, so they both have a lot of time to get to know each other and bond. Since Echo isn’t initially very talkative, it also gives Sol a lot of time to ruminate over her epilepsy and how it’s changed how she’s viewed in the settlement, especially by her parents, and how she’s changed in reaction. One of my favorite parts about YA is watching characters struggle to figure out who they are, and while I think Echo has the most obvious growth, Sol grows a lot as well. There’s also a slow burn romance between the two, which was adorably sweet.
“Not a machine. He’d said that a few times. I hadn’t known him long but he didn’t seem the type to repeat himself. The differentiation mattered deeply to him then. With regret, I thought of how many times I’d called him a robot. His impassive manner made it seem like nothing bothered him, but maybe that was wrong. He was different in ways I didn’t fully understand, but different didn’t mean less. It was just another way to be. You’d think after all I’d been through in the last year I’d have the concept down.”
As for cons, the pacing was a bit uneven, and there’s a plot element towards the end (involving the source of Sol’s dreams) that was ridiculously deus ex machina. View Spoiler » It just seemed to be a way to wrap up some unanswered questions quickly before the end of the book.
Overall, though, I very much enjoyed this book, and I’ve already found something else in Ms. Deen’s backlist to read!