SPSFC Book Review: “Age of Order” by Julian North

Age of Order by Julian North

Dystopias are all the rage. Age of Order might strike some as just another dystopia, but it has more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye. It starts of with Daniela Machado offered a shot to go to an elite school for the privileged and wealthy. There, she has to fight against classism and the genetic modifications of the “richies” even as she contends back home with the impact of a pseudo-police state. It’s a great setup that quickly turns into something that reads a bit like a school drama combined with dystopia.

Then… things kind of get out of hand, in both good and bad ways. At 20% in I was hugely enjoying it; at 40% it started to read like it wasn’t stopping. The extended school scenes and back-and-forth moves across the city read at times like an over-extended travelogue instead of a dystopic thriller. Then, twists and turns started to hit hot and heavy, and our main characters had some more interesting background revealed.

The novel begins to read like a roller coaster, with extremely high points of big twists and reveals punctuating an almost mundane otherwise story of going to school and dealing with bullying. The highs definitely outweigh the lows, however, and I found myself enjoying it all the way through. The character interactions are the strength of the novel, and I especially enjoyed how several major plots were intertwined almost behind the scenes before they got revealed to the reader. As that reader, I never felt cheated by having something come out of the woodworks. North certainly sets up the background to have even massive revelations about the characters feel believable. And there’s no way to avoid empathizing with these characters, who deal with struggles both in and out of their control.

Age of Order is a great read that I would highly recommend to fans of dystopias. It’s got so many great character moments and huge plot points that it overcomes its own problems with being a bit over-bloated. I’ll definitely be reading the next novels in this series.

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SPSFC Round 1, Battle Royale Part 5

Skybound by Lou Iovino

I was intrigued by the hard sci-fi premise of this novel. What would happen if the Earth stopped spinning? Iovino dives into some of the science questions this brings up, and provides answers to some of the big ones, like what happens to the moon (in this book, whatever stopped the Earth’s spin kept the moon in a kind of stasis as well), or satellites, or why didn’t everyone just fly off into space? Scatter in some great character pieces, and the book was set up for success. I had a ton of questions as I got to the 3/4 mark of the novel. I was especially interested in the strange alien (?) object that seemed to be the source of all the problems. [There are spoilers for the ending after these brackets. I’ll close out spoilers with more brackets.] But then, they just solve the problem. An astronaut from the ISS worked throughout most of the novel to get information back to Earth, and they can’t read it, but that doesn’t matter because nukes. I re-read the last 20% or so of the novel twice because I was so surprised by how so many threads were left dangling and some of the biggest investments in characters were just dead ends. They literally just shoot a bunch of nukes at the object and it disappears after a couple hits. Flash forward 5 years and some people are bittersweet about the events. That’s it! There’s no explanation of what the object was, why it did what it did, nothing! I am left wondering if it is supposed to be some broader point about the pointlessness of various things, like how we could invest a ton of time and effort into a project only to have it all be for nothing. But really, it just feels incredibly unsatisfying after a super strong first part of the novel. [/Spoilers.] Because of this, Skybound is, disappointingly, a “no.” There’s just not the satisfaction of an ending I was looking for. I would read another novel by the author, though.

World of Difference by WJ Donovan

I don’t really know what to make of this book, now that I’ve finished. It’s got a kind of sardonic narration style that makes it difficult to tell if some of the worst comments are satire critiquing awful things or whether the narrator is just… awful. One example is a character who goes on about how incarceration rates (even in the future, apparently) are skewed in America towards imprisoning people of color, which seems like a potential critique of mass incarceration. But then that same character jokingly (?) says mass incarceration is good because it was a way to help explore the Solar System through forced labor. Moments like this abound. The plot is at times buried to the point it feels one needs an excavator to figure out what’s happening. Is it a slice of life novel, showing what’s happening across the lives of several characters? Or is it something more? By the end I was still asking myself this question. It’s got the seeds of interest here, but not enough for me to bump it to a “yes,” especially with my concerns over some of the problematic content.

Age of Order by Julian North

We’ve got another school-based dystopia here! I gotta confess, I love this concept. Combine Harry Potter with a dystopia and you’ve got the classroom drama of teens or kids and the potential for much bigger consequences.

Round 1 Status

As my group pushed to find the last 10 books our group selected, I had to cut my reading of Age of Order short (about 43% in), but I could tell that it stood out from the crowd enough this round to move on. I’ll be interested to see if my group decides to pick it as one of the group choices, as I know there were some mixed opinions on it. World of Difference is an intriguing story with maybe just a bit too little cohesion and too many things going on for a satisfying answer to any of the many basic character questions it raised in my head. Skybound is a fantastic read that just… kind of fizzles out. With Age of Order, we’ve rounded out my personal top 10 from my team’s books for the SPSFC! I can’t wait to see what my group’s official choices are, but I said I’d promise reviews for all my own selections, and you’ll have them even if they don’t make the group’s list! Let me know in the comments what you think!

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Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!


Announcing Team Red Stars SPSFC Round of 100 reads- The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest

We’ve done it! Team Red Stars has narrowed our 31 selections for the SPSFC down to 10. 10 groups have done so, which means the remaining books are the top 100 out of about 300 entries into the SPSFC! Without further ado, here are our 10 books for the round of 100, along with some comments on each!

Of Cinder and Bone by Kyoko M.

Our whole group was enthused about this read from the sample we read. We loved the character-driven drama and the hints at science-y, dragon-y plot. I have since finished the book and will have a review coming… eventually!

The Shepherd Protocol by Fowler Brown

The group was sold on this AI/Robot mystery that seemed to get deeper the more we read of it. I personally quite enjoy the cover art–it’s not often you see art in this style, which looks like a kind of advanced colored pencil drawing.

The Trellis by Jools Cantor

I may as well say it: I’m a sucker for the mashup of science fiction and mystery. The Trellis has that from the get-go, and Cantor also sprinkles in some commentary on unfettered capitalism and more as the novel gets going. I am about halfway through and it’s captured me completely.

Zenith by Arshad Ahsanuddin

Another character-driven drama, with this one set in space. I found the characters compelling, and it was exciting to see representation of characters outside the norm for science fiction.

Refraction Wick Welker

This story takes place in three different time periods spanning from our past to a future a few hundred years from now. The group was into the main characters, as well as intrigued by the way the plot hinted at bigger things to come.

Age of Order by Julian North

Our group had a bunch of dystopias, and this one was one that stuck out from the crowd with its setting and potential for big implications about its world. We also liked the main character, for whom we’re all rooting!

Wherever Seeds May Fall by Peter Cawdron

I couldn’t stop reading this first contact/hard sci-fi novel by Peter Cawdron. It just kept getting bigger and more intriguing as it went on, and I think it’s just a wonderfully told and timely story. Others in the group enjoyed the tone and were interested to see where the plot goes.

Dog Country by Malcolm F. Cross

Our group enthusiastically selected this no-luck military sci-fi drama that intensely focuses on character-driven plot. I have finished it since, and I’ll save my main thoughts for the review; for now, let’s just say the story is as good as its cover.

Extinction Reversed by J. S. Morin

Artificially intelligent robots are trying to revive the human race in this touching novel about robots. I wasn’t entirely sold on it until I got about 20% in, but it truly starts to ramp up from there. I’m excited to see where it goes.

Above the Sky by J.W. Lynne

Our group dug this dystopia (maybe–it’s not clear if it’s a dystopia or simply playing on the subgenre’s tropes yet) about a looming threat that lingers above the sky. I admit I’ve been sitting on it, waiting for a good moment to start truly diving in. I anticipate savoring it based on the sample I read.

First Round Status

As a group, we’ve determined our final 10 books. I have several posts in the docket to show how I came to my personal top 10, as well. 8 of my personal top 10 made our quarterfinalists, which is pretty exciting for me. So what’s next? More book reviews and discussions. Let me know if you’ve read any of these and what you think in the comments!

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The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– my hub post with links to all of my other posts related to the SPSFC.

Announcing Our SPSFC Round One Top Ten!– Red Star Reviews has his own write-up related to our group’s reads.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!