This intriguing speculative work shows an alternate history and future for North America as a mid-19th Century fundamentalist cult led by a Virginia plantation owner turned polygamist settler founds New Megiddo in the Mexican state of Tejas with plans of revolution and theocracy. The novella then jumps to the future where wealthy, progressive America has fallen and New Megiddo has risen from its ashes. Cities from Annapolis to San Francisco are largely slums and ruins. All of the wealth is in the hands of the theocratic government that is as controlling and hypocritical as George Orwell‘s 1984. I especially enjoy the homage in using Orwellian acronyms for government organizations: HOVEL (orphanages), LOVE (police state regulators) etc.
The novella is less plot-driven and more broad depictions of the new reality while focusing in on an interesting menagerie of characters. A president and an elaborate caste of self-righteous Deacons divide and run the country using assassins and Inquisitors to snuff out political enemies in the name of Virtue. Any actions can be justified by naming the victim an Apostate–one not of the New Megiddo religion.
The masses are controlled with fear, starvation, threat of Apostate-label, and an officially illegal drug called DB, or database, that propels the user into a virtual reality altered state experiencing mid-20th Century American life for escapist purposes.
A few characters are of particular note. Evan, a teenaged gay boxer, finds himself an inch from death in a society intolerant of queers [Homosexuality is punishable by death]. His benefactor teaches him to sword fight before sending him on a mission to embed within the New Megiddo police forces. Prelate [official government assassin] Ayane Inoguchi goes from trembling HOVEL kid to coldly fervent killer due to horribly abusive treatment at the hands of a Deacon, while her Prelate predecessor transforms his whole body into that of a demon to express his righteous mission. These barely controlled killers should prove to be an Achilles’ heel for the State.
Slowly, the disparate characters cross paths without any real build of a singular plot. As a prequel, I expect the novels that follow, The Apostates (Apostates, #1) and The Apostates: Remnants (Apostates, #2), will aim for a tighter arc. Editorial mistakes, usually homophonic in nature, distract from full immersion, too. I received my copy of this novel directly from the author through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
[Check out my other reviews here.]