By C.D. Verhoff
Author’s website: http://cdverhoff.blogspot.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Scott
Fast forward to the future – the Second Civil War between the States is well underway. The Liberty Union Democracy (the North) clings to outmoded, ancient traditions, placing value on material worth rather than the human condition; Avantica (the South) provides for the people who are genetically engineered, from birth, to do tasks they are most suited for the productivity they provide the state. Thus begins the rollercoaster ride through a myriad of plot turns and twists and plenty of food for thought on the way things are headed in society today. As most fine speculative fiction, Avant Nation proffers a delightful spin on the world as we knew it, and from threads, weaves the extremes of both sides of these rather poignant topics.
The writing, deceptively simple, plays up the various themes and the overall story arc. The citizens of the L.U.D. are an extreme of capitalism and the horrors that merit brought on by material acquisition entail. Higher crime rates, increased poverty, a division between the haves and have-nots and increased violence because of this. By way of comparison, Avantica seems idyllic, except that its citizens are sterilized and “vat-grown” embryos are the norm, save that they are genetically engineered to be the perfect cogs in the machine that feed the state – however, since the entire population can be controlled, nobody really wants for anything – but everyone lives in fear of discovering they’re “defective” (i.e. not fit to carry out their duties). At no point in the story does the reader converge on one side or the other, as the blacks and whites portrayed are mired in shades of grey. The prose flows from chapter to chapter, trickling from the viewpoint of the lives of Avants from Avantica, to what a skillfully written plot, and gushing into high adrenaline pumping action adventure.
The main protagonist, Claire, is from the “Compassionate” class and it is through her compassion that the force propels the story. Although others appear in the novel, they aren’t as fully fleshed out as Claire. With Claire, the reader is given a sounding board and the people passing through her life serve as reflectors of her current state of mind. She is a fully fleshed out character that exudes compassion (as she’s supposed to) and a deep three dimensional understanding of how things work in the setting. Sadly the other members of the cast are two-dimensional in flavor and her Academy classmate Hawk (from the Rugged class), is the only other individual we get to know, somewhat well.
Overall, Avant Nation is a joy to read, right up to the climatic ending. Well executed in plot and setting and the theme of genetic engineering vs. rampant capitalism should earn this a spot on any Alternative History or Science Fiction fans shelf. Had there been a little bit more character development, this easily would have received 5 stars. However, the story itself is sound and should keep readers guessing until the very end.