October 02, 2014

J.L. Morin: "Nature's Confession" (ARC Review)

Title: Nature's Confession [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: TBA
Author: J.L. Morin [Twitter | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi (more precisely, Cli-Fi)
Year: 2015
Age: 12+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Adventure-packed book that explores serious issues from an often funny angle.
Cons: Requires some suspension of disbelief. The fable-like telling may take a bit to get used to. Multiple points of view may not be everybody's cup of tea.
Will appeal to: Those who like their sci-fi peppered with humour, but also driven by a purpose. Those who can appreciate a modern fable coupled with a (non preachy) message.

Blurb: A smart-mouthed, mixed-race teen, with the girl of his dreams, inadvertently invents living computers. Just as the human race allows corporations to pollute Earth into total desolation, institute martial law and enslave humanity, the two teens set out to save civilization. Can they thwart polluters of Earth and other fertile worlds? Along the way, they enlist the help of female droid Any Gynoid, who uncovers cutting-edge scientific mysteries as their quest takes them through the Big Bang and back. Will youth lead the way to a new way of coexisting with Nature? (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review. It's also my second ARC review in two years of blogging - but this didn't affect my opinion in any way. 
There's something I have to warn you about straight away: don't approach this book thinking the romance will play a huge part in it, like the blurb seems to imply. Or, to be precise - the romance does play a huge part in it, but mostly offscreen, so to speak. Also, this is a book that gets better the second time around. While reading the first chapters, the unusual style - almost fable-like - threw me for a loop. Not to mention, some occurrences seemed too convenient and far-fetched at first, even for a sci-fi novel. The main characters, fourteen and sixteen respectively, are supposed to be a couple of geniuses, able to create (accidentally or on purpose) living computers. That sounded like a stretch to me, to put it mildly. Then, a few chapters in, the book finally clicked for me, and I began to really enjoy the story
Boy is a 14 y.o. mixed-race teen (points to Morin for writing a diverse character without emphasizing his ethnicity) who doesn't have a name yet - in the distant-future society he lives in (I hesitate to label it as dystopian, since alas, it might come true for us) one can't be named until his/her fifteenth birthday. Valentine is the 16 y.o. daughter of a scientist, who keeps appearing in Boy's dreams, although he doesn't know she's real yet. Even when the two teens do finally meet, there's very little interaction between them, until much later in the story. Also, Boy has a half-sister, Kenza, who is a clone of their mother. Despite the sci-fi contest, plus a hint of magical realism (Boy's dreams), the family dynamics are somehow typical, up to a point (a father who works a lot and cheats on his wife, a mother who mainly takes care of the family), but we'll soon realise that there's a lot more than that under the surface. Every member of Boy's family (including a telepathic alien pet with six legs and an undisclosed number of tails that we are to meet later) will be given the opportunity to play a part in the rebirth of planet Earth and its new, eco-sustainable course. Some of these characters are unlikely heroes - take Porter, Boy's father, who leaves for a supposed pleasure-filled space trip with a soon-to-be lover, and ends up traveling through the Big Bang and back with a gynoid and meeting a few unexpected allies on old planet Earth. This adds humour to the story, and makes the scientific stuff easier to digest. [...]

Like I said, NC is told via a few points of view, mostly in third person, with a couple of first-person notable exceptions: Boy's mom and and Cuppycake - the alien pet, or hupcha, that is given lots of space and makes for some cute, funny and even insightful chapters.
The second half of the book deals with Boy (now MakSym) growing into a man while recreating a new, eco-friendly society among the Feridids (a hominid tribe from Phira, the planet Boy's family has been living on for a while). This is when he'll meet Valentine again, and she will be crucial in helping him shape their new environment. The author implies that nature and technology can indeed go hand in hand, if the second doesn't try and suffocate the first. Also, there's a fascinating idea at the core of the story - that the real, valuable fuel on Earth is indeed our culture and our soul.
Humour and irony prevent this novel from getting preachy or heavy despite its momentous subject. For the same reason, the very fable-like style I had some issues with at first ends up being a fit choice. NC crosses the bridge between teen and adult fiction, and may aspire to be appointed as a new classic.

Note: I was able to spot a couple of small typos slipped through revision (I mean real typos, not mistakes!), but they didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story.

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  1. Great review! And I learned what Cli-Fi is. Thanks!

    1. Thank you! I have to admit I didn't know Cli-Fi was a genre myself, before I was offered this book to review.


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