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: The Time Machine

The Time Machine (1895) is a science fiction novella by H.G. Wells and is about, oddly enough, a Time Machine.

The novella has a frame narrative and an embedded narrative; the Time Traveller (yes, that is the only name he’s given) hosts a dinner party, inviting a variety of guests to tell them about his journeys through time. The embedded narrative then begins, as the Time Traveller retells what has happened to him.

The opening frame narrative was quite dull, as the dinner guests discuss space, time, mathematics, and psychology. This was not the gripping and dramatic opening I had been hoping for.

Once the Time Traveller arrives and begins to tell his story though, things liven up. He’s eccentric and clever, which I suppose is now the blueprint for other fictional time travellers like Doctor Who.

The Time Traveller travels to Earth, A.D. 802,701, where he meets the Eloi, a species of adults that have child-like language and small attention spans because they have achieved and acquired everything possible, so there is no need for work or intelligence. This is an interesting social commentary: is it better to have everything in life but be forever bored, or to have work and goals to achieve within your lifetime?

There is a second species on Earth too – the Morlocks – who are underworld, carnivorous creatures who prey on the vulnerable Eloi in the dark. The scenes with the Morlocks were a little scary, in a similar way to the vicious Martian attacks upon mankind in Wells’ later novel War of the Worlds. These two opposing species prompt lots of interesting questions and were obvious symbols of good versus bad, upper-class versus lower-class, and so on.

The Time Machine is an incredibly creative work of fiction and good fun to read. Like War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells has provided a social commentary on the society at the time, which is in some ways still applicable today. However, I didn’t find this book quite as engaging as War of the Worlds, which was slightly disappointing, given how many praise it for being one of the first proper works of science fiction.

In many ways, The Time Machine is a science fiction story because of its focus on time, space, physics and aliens. However, it’s also incredibly similar to utopian or dystopian novels such as Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726). It’s funny how so many novels supposedly predict the future, whilst only commenting on the present.

– Judith

Book Review: Clone Secrets

Clone Secrets is the second book in the young adult dystopian series: Clone Crisis Trilogy. I have already read and reviewed Clone Crisis, the first book in the series, which you can read on my blog. The Clone Crisis Trilogy is set in a 25th century world where cloning has replaced reproduction.

Clone Secrets follows on from the events of Clone Crisis. After Yami’s friends make some new discoveries about the fertility crisis and emerging birth rates, biological children from around the country are kidnapped by masked strangers. Yami and her friends embark on a journey to rescue the children and uncover the truth about the government’s involvement in cloning.

The strength of Clone Secrets were its dramatic ambush scenes or its violent fight scenes as masked soldiers – known as Gray Suits – attacked communities and ripped young children away from their parents. These scenes were gripping, and the aftermath of these fights was always suitably dark and bleak.

However, I felt the scenes that followed were slightly less engaging, as there was more dialogue and less action. This was a shame because it gave the impression that these scenes were “filler” until the next conflict.

The leader of the community in which Yami seeks refuge, Ann, reminded me a lot of President Alma Coin from Mockingjay. In terms of character building, this was great because I remember just how much she annoyed me in both the books and the films – not sharing her ideas, being tight-lipped and secretive, and acting generally suspicious.

Image via Villains Wiki.com

I saw some of the plot twists coming, as they seemed to be referred to quite obviously, rather than the occasional subtle hint. At times, I felt there was a neon flashing sign screaming “all is not right”. Having said that, there were other moments in the book that caught me by surprise – introducing ideas or characters I hadn’t thought of or even considered could be possible. I liked these moments.

The ending of Clone Secrets works really well and leaves some plot elements nicely wrapped up and leaves other elements as utter bombshells, presumably to be resolved in the third and final book of the series, Clone Legacy.

To sum up, Clone Secrets has room for improvement, but was nonetheless an entertaining book in the series.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Clone Secrets is available to buy as an e-book from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

– Judith