Again, I’ve gotten off track with these reviews, but again I’m trying to keep at it. This time, I’m reviewing Isobel Mitton’s novel Across the Realm: Life Always Finds A Way. This is the first of the space opera series ‘Across the Realm’, which includes a sequel titled Across the Realm: When Two Tribes Go to War.
When I was asked to read and review this book, I must admit to the cardinal sin of judging a book by its cover. The cover of the first edition looks unfortunately amateurish, and on the basis of that I assumed that I’d read the first twenty percent of this book and conclude that it wasn’t worth my time, as I’ve done for several other indie books. But, this book surprised me. The prose had some rocky points but overall was pretty good, there were relatively few editing errors, and the premise, while certainly out-there, caught and kept my interest. It’s also noteworthy that more recent edition have a new and more professional cover, which I am including in this post.
The book is set in the year 2699. A cultural and physical divide has split the Earth into a northern “realm” and a southern “realm”, which have been at war for centuries. In the north humans live under strict racial segregation. Apart from space travel, they haven’t had a great many scientific breakthroughs since the 21st century, and their understanding of science, specifically biology, is distorted by their racial ideals. In the south, humans have radically altered into cybernetically enhanced telepathic superhumans who breathe argon and whose bodies are in some way composed of mystic energy. They are racially integrated and mixed, they live for centuries because disease has been eradicated, they have eliminated reproduction by growing embryos in tanks, and they worship their ancestors and Mother Earth, the source of their energy. Water is absolutely poisonous to them. A force field separates the north from the south and both sides seek to break through the force field and conquer the other side of it.
((((((((((((((((SPOILERS HERE IN THIS PARAGRAPH))))))))))))))))A convoluted Romeo-and-Juliet sort of situation develops between Greg, a man and high-ranking soldier from the north, and Naledi, a woman and elite warrior of the south when the two crash onto a planet together after a space battle. Prior to this Naledi received a vision in which she was instructed by her ancestors to restore the humanity of the South, which had deviated too far from natural humanity. Along with Greg and Naledi’s storyline, there are numerous other characters, fighters and spies and priestesses and scientists and so forth, all influencing the direction of the war. The book ends on a cliffhanger, with an enormous battle between the two sides about to begin.
As I said earlier, the premise is out there. Obviously the world and setting are not realistic. The science presented in the work is all nonsense, which we generally accept and overlook in space operas (midichlorians, anyone?). That being said, the story was so committed to its world and so detailed and specific in what it’s like and how it came to be that way that I couldn’t help but be impressed. Some of the character motivations were murky and strained credibility at times, but the main story arcs where engaging and intriguing, and I’m pleased to say that I quite enjoyed the book.
Fans of sci-fi and space opera and readers looking for something original and unique are likely to also enjoy this book.