Book Review: The Subjugate by Amanda Bridgeman

Crime Is Over.

The Subjugate by Amanda Bridgeman is partly science fiction, partly dystopian, and partly crime thriller.

A community known as The Children of Christ is shocked when a series of sexual attacks and murders are uncovered in the heart of the town. The Children of Christ is home to seemingly pure, religious folk as well as surgically reformed criminals – Subjugates – who are repurposed as servants, known as Serenes. They have been surgically altered to have their sinful tendencies and violent behaviours removed. The question is: who then, is responsible for these attacks? Detectives Salvi Brentt and Mitchel Grenville work to find and stop the serial killer before another victim is claimed.

My Photo [The Subjugate]

I really enjoyed reading The Subjugate. The settings and descriptions were completely immersive – the world created is both futuristic and realistic, drawing on motifs used in other dystopian and science fiction novels as well as describing things I could see happening.

The futuristic technology is well-explained; explanations weren’t overly lengthy or complicated so everything was easy to understand. I liked the irony that the characters’ dependency on technology wasn’t too far-fetched at all from today’s society. This grounded the novel in some realism, so that some of the more advanced technology didn’t seem too unimaginable. Mobile phones and watches with an increasing range of capabilities? Cars that can drive themselves? Check and check.

Whilst I enjoyed the representation of technology, I wonder whether the representation of religion – that is, Christianity, was slightly too harsh. For example, some characters were described in a negative way, simply because the protagonists learn they hold Christian beliefs. Now, I don’t mind dystopian or warped religious beliefs, such as those featured in The Handmaid’s Tale or Brave New World. These representations can provide interesting commentaries as well as entertainment. I just felt that the community in The Subjugate was judged immediately and negatively by the protagonists just because it was a religious town, which didn’t seem quite fair.

Nevertheless, I found the book interesting in a few different ways. For example, the fact that the government is focused on rehabilitating and releasing even the most violent criminals into the world again, through the sinister use of lobotomies and experiments to modify behaviour and character traits was a fascinating, though horrifying, prospect.

Control over the human body and the mind is such a huge motif in science fiction or dystopian novels.  In A Clockwork Orange, doctors want to control and prevent Alex’s criminal tendencies by therapy akin to torture. In Brave New World, the government want to control and condition people to submit to the life to which they have been genetically assigned. In 1984, Big Brother wants control over what people say or think or do. In The Handmaid’s Tale, women lose control of their relationships, bodies, and potential children. The desire for omnipotent control over the human race is eerily present across all these novels, including The Subjugate.

Amanda Bridgeman’s effective use of this motif is not only entertaining, but prompts some interesting questions:

  • Would it be better to strip people of their free will, forcing them to be good?

or

  • Would it be better to allow people their free will, giving them the right to choose to be bad?

If you want to answer these questions, you’ll have have to read the book for yourself!

The Subjugate was an enjoyable read that blends a number of different genres really well; it’s perfect for fans of science fiction, dystopian, fantasy, or crime thrillers.

It had some fun plot twists, and I found myself engrossed in finding out what happened next – I read the entire thing in just a few days! The ending tied things up well, and I liked that the culprit wasn’t immediately obvious as there were a few different suspects.

I wouldn’t mind at all if Amanda Bridgeman chose to write a sequel to The Subjugate – either with the same characters or different ones – set in the same world, because I’m certainly interested in learning more about the futuristic world she’s created!

The Subjugate will be available to buy as an e-book or paperback from the 1st of November in the UK, and the 6th of November in the US and Canada. Many thanks to Angry Robot Publishing for providing me with a free copy!

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

– Judith

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Book Review: Chasing Monsters by Paul Harrison

This is part of a blog tour organised by Love Books Group and Urbane Publications.

Chasing Monsters is the debut crime thriller novel by writer Paul Harrison. Harrison has spent much of his career working within the criminal justice system in the UK as a police officer, and has gained a remarkable insight into some shockingly violent criminals.

Chasing Monsters is set in a quiet suburb of Bridlington, where nothing much happens. However, after a mutilated body is discovered, the Eastborough Police Force is forced into action. As the number of murder victims begins to increase rapidly, DI Will Scott is put in charge of the investigation in a race against the clock to catch the killer responsible.

As a quick first impression, the genre of Chasing Monsters surprised me because of its use of supernatural language and imagery both in the title and book cover. You could be forgiven for thinking the book was a new fantasy / horror. The plot did have a small supernatural / religious undertone however, which may be foregrounded in later books and would explain this style of branding.

I also think it could be worth the author having another proofread of Chasing Monsters, as there were a few phrases that weren’t entirely clear, as well as some spelling / grammar oddities, which can be easy to miss!

Nonetheless, Harrison has written a good debut novel.

First of all, it’s set in Yorkshire – the perfect way to my heart, as a West Yorkshire lass myself!

It’s also evident he knows a lot about the subject matter; crime scenes, police protocol and murder victims’ bodies are always described with clear detail. In particular, the graphic descriptions of the mutilated bodies were always fantastically gruesome and I was left quite astounded that someone could think up such creative … murder methods.

As a reader, I could definitely feel the pressure building for DI Will Scott, as he desperately wants to stop the murder spree but can’t find new leads quick enough before the next body turns up, which I’m sure echoes the stressful nature of police work in real life.

Chasing Monsters gives nothing away early; the culprit is only revealed at the very end of the book, so if you enjoy a long, suspenseful wait then this would be a good book for you.

Personally, I think the book could have benefited from a few more hints at the murderer’s identity – dropped in subtly, of course.

In my ever so humble opinion, Paul Harrison has transitioned well from writing about true crimes to fictional ones, and Chasing Monsters was an enjoyable debut novel that I’m sure others will enjoy too.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Chasing Monsters is available to buy as a paperback or an e-book from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

– Judith

Book Review: Black Eyed Susans

A small while ago, I was meant to attend a Waterstones event, where Julia Heaberlin would be speaking about her new book, Paper Ghosts, but it was unfortunately cancelled. However, I was given a free copy of one of her other books, Black Eyed Susans.

Black Eyed Susans is a harrowing story.

Aged 16, Tessie Cartwright was found buried in a grave, marked by a patch of black-eyed susans. She was surrounded by bones – the bodies of previous victims. A man was captured and convicted, and sits awaiting his punishment on Death Row. She remembers nothing about what happened to her. 18 years later, Tessa suspects the real killer is still out there, and wonders if the right man was caught.

Firstly, I know they say don’t judge a book by its cover, but I really like these covers; a beautiful floral pattern is a nice change from more conventional thriller and crime cover designs.

My Photo [Black Eyed Susans 1]My Photo [Black Eyed Susans 2]Black Eyed Susans switches frequently between two main perspectives: the teenage Tessie, in therapy recovering from her ordeal, and the adult Tessa, haunted by her past.

I thought Tessie’s childhood perspective was the most fascinating. She discusses with her doctor what she actually remembers and what she thinks she remembers. The narration clearly conveyed Tessie’s inner-thoughts and attitudes; I felt I really understood her character. Because of this, the therapy scenes were my favourite sections of the book.

I also liked the interview segments which were taken from the trial, as Tessie is asked by lawyers to recount what happened. These sections were deviations from the traditional form of prose, but I enjoyed them as they were only small scenes and helped progress the narrative.

However, whilst I mostly enjoyed Heaberlin’s writing, she also uses lot of short sentences.

This creates a blunt tone. Initially I liked this style. It conveyed Tessa’s adult cynicism and sarcasm. Effectively. It could also create tension. Yet it felt overused. By the end of the novel.

Black Eyed Susans is incredibly sinister and dark. I liked all the twists; I tried to guess throughout what had happened, who was responsible, and why it happened. Unsurprisingly, I guessed incorrectly each time.

I strongly recommend this book, and I’d love to read more from Julia Heaberlin.

– Judith