Public service announcement to authors: Why I will probably reject your review request for your latest Dystopian masterpiece:
With The Hunger Games as the trope definer, dystopian books/films/fanfic/you-name-it owns its own genre. Since I’m going to turn down most of your review requests anyway, it might be useful to list a few guidelines that will save time for both of us.
[“Hunger Games Commercial” Written/Performed by Melinda Taub. Directed and edited by Adam Sacks for Funny Or Die]
So, dear review-requesters, if your heroine’s actions include three or more of the following (or number 9), I will be sending your book back with a suggestion that there might be other
twelve-year-olds reviewers out there without a life of their own better suited to slogging through the 100-thousand words of your story only to find a f**king cliffhanger at the end reviewing your book. (Unless I really like it, or it has a cute dog, or were-badgers. Definitely taking all the ones with were-badgers.)
Does your heroine say—
- I’m a completely ordinary looking girl with long straight (probably red) hair, enormous (probably green) eyes, and a slim athletic build but my boobs are too small and my legs are too long and I’m too slender and…where was I? Oh, yeah. Ordinary.
- I have no actual responsible adults in my life, as I am either an orphan or handling all the family duties for my irresponsible parent(s).
- We live simply and humbly next to the wilderness that apparently has no roads or anything in it even though people have lived there ever since the [insert craptastic event] Before Time. But for some completely inexplicable reason, although we hunt with bows, wear anachronistic long tunics and dresses, and get places on horseback, there is fabulous technology that allows the [insert evil Overlord] a terrific internet connection and world dominance and some really awesome costume designers.
- When I reach puberty, I will face [the Test/College entrance exams/sorting hat] which will randomly assign my role in life. Plus maybe a death match or two.
- I am the Chosen One foretold by The Prophecy to take down the Evil Overlord and save the world but I’m conflicted about it. I’d much rather go back to my little family hovel and wear neutral-colored clothing.
- I can’t go back to my little family hovel because I have to rescue my [insert name of loved one/sibling/pet] from the Evil Overlord. To do that I will acquire astonishing mastery of [insert weapon] in an unrealistically short time. (Of course, I will not actually apply the astonishing mastery when it counts, and will probably need to be rescued myself. Lots.) But Loved One’s actual rescue will take several film sequels/book series volumes/TV seasons, and—although eventually successful—will still result in Loved One’s death or severe maiming because that’s irony, baby.
- I have assembled a (snarky, possibly LGBTQ, undoubtedly racially-diverse) posse to help me save the world. Although teenagers, none of us ever thinks about school. Bad news for them, though, is that they’ll probably mostly die.
- Although I’m only a teenager and I’ve only spoken to one boy in my life so far, I’ve found my true love! Actually, I’ve found two of them and they are each incredibly handsome! What are the odds? I can’t believe they would be interested in me because I’m so ordinary. How will I decide which one to spend the rest of my life with once I’m done saving the world? It’s so hard to be ordinary-me.
- I want to make sure that you read the next book in my series, so I will end this one on a cliffhanger.
BLURB: UK2 (Project Renova Book 3) by Terry Tyler
Two decades of social media had prepared them well for UK2.
The pace steps up in this final instalment of the Project Renova trilogy, as the survivors’ way of life comes under threat.
Two years after the viral outbreak, representatives from UK Central arrive at Lindisfarne to tell the islanders about the shiny new city being created down south. UK2 governor Verlander’s plan is simple: all independent communities are to be dissolved, their inhabitants to reside in approved colonies. Alas, those who relocate soon suspect that the promises of a bright tomorrow are nothing but smoke and mirrors, as great opportunities turn into broken dreams, and dangerous journeys provide the only hope of freedom.
Meanwhile, far away in the southern hemisphere, a new terror is gathering momentum…
‘I walked through that grey afternoon, past fields that nobody had tended for nearly three years, past broken down, rusty old vehicles, buildings with smashed windows. I was walking alone at the end of the world, but I was a happy man. I was free, at last.’
Although this concludes the Project Renova trilogy, there will be more books in the series. A collection of five side stories is planned, and another novel, set far into the future.
‘Power is not a means; it is an end.’
― George Orwell, 1984
‘Nobody can imagine how good power feels until they have it.’—Dexter Northam, UK2 by Terry Tyler
As a fan of Terry Tyler’s writing, I’ve learned the only thing I can consistently expect from her is the unexpected. Her body of work spans genres, settings, and time. The one characteristic her novels have in common is their brilliantly three-dimensional characters who drive the story. UK2, the third and final(ish) book of Tyler’s post-apocalyptic Project Renova series is certainly no exception.
And…no. You really can NOT read UK2, at least not until you’ve read the first two books of the series. Sure, the backstory is easy: in the near future (2024), the world is struggling with overpopulation and decreasing resources. When a shadow-organization implements “Project Renova”—a depopulation bomb in the form of a deadly virus for which the ‘right’ people will receive vaccinations—their carefully orchestrated solution to the population problem escapes their control, decimating the world’s population.
In England, a small group—survivors who were either vaccinated or naturally immune—bands together, eventually settling on the semi-accessible island of Lindisfarne in Northumberland. If Book 1, Tipping Point (the story of of the epidemic), is the zombie apocalypse, and Book 2, Lindisfarne (their survival on the little island), is The Lord of the Flies, then Book 3, UK2, is Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four meets Woody Allen’s Sleeper. The science is shaky and the economics even more dubious, but none of that matters because Terry Tyler isn’t writing political ideology or scientific treatise.
Instead, this series is an exploration of what real people might do when their world ends. The fact of how it happens—science, philosophy, karma, zombies, or pure blind chance—is ultimately unimportant. What author Terry Tyler invites us to explore with her is what happens to ordinary people faced with extraordinary events.
In rotating sections, we get inside the heads of the main characters, viewing the rapid changes through their eyes. This provides input from a variety of key locations, giving the reader a birds-eye view of events. Or does it? These are people trying to make sense of their new world through the lens of the old one, complete with all the inadequacies, prejudices, desires, and unreliable observations of normal humans.
In this character-driven story, the main characters define and advance the plot. They include:
- Dex: Unlike the other characters, Dex’s point-of-view is told in the third person, further distancing him from the reader, but oddly fitting as he believes his intelligence and skills place him above the inferior people around him. As one of the few who predicted the conspiracy that was Project Renova, Dex sees himself as the rightful leader of the Lindisfarne community. Through deceit, manipulation, and outright murder, he’s established himself in the castle, and views the rest of the community as his subjects. And he even gloats silently over his personal harem in the form of his girlfriend (Vicky), plus the mother of his son (Naomi), and a third woman as his secret lover. “He has the perfect trio. The wife, the mother, the lover.” But Dex knows word of his crimes might cause him to lose everything, so when he hears about UK2, the utopian society being built in the south of England by the still-shadowy Project Renova, he immediately pictures himself as a leader of this much bigger empire.
- Lottie: In this first group, the teenage Lottie and middle-age Dex mirror each other—similar in some ways, but each reflecting the reverse of the other. Both share a grudging contempt for most people, while both embrace the realities of their new worlds. But where Dex uses the opportunity to seize political power, Lottie is single-mindedly amassing the personal power she’ll need to triumph over her new world.
I don’t know her, that kid Lottie who ate ice cream watching dumb teen series on Netflix and arsed around online with her mates. I’m jealous of her for having nothing to make her feel overwhelmed and sick with fear. But I despise her, too, for thinking all the trivial crap that went on in her little life actually mattered. She’s not me.
- Vicky: And then we have Vicky, Lottie’s mother and Dex’s girlfriend. As I said in my review of Lindisfarne (Book 2), I have to admit that I really dislike Vicky—and I suspect I’m meant to. She seems like a particularly wet sponge: I imagine if you threw her against the wall, she would just stick there for a minute and then ooze slowly down. She’s the woman who validates her own identity through the eyes of her lovers. And—for reasons which totally escape me—Vicky must have the most glittery hoo-ha ever. Practically every man who sees her fantasizes about being her lover, while Vicky stumbles along in her own personal fog. “I must make decisions. Take action. I will. Just not today.” [Please note: this is not, by any means, a criticism of Terry Tyler’s brilliant writing. Clearly, she knows exactly what she’s doing in crafting Vicky’s character. The book doesn’t need an adorable puppy or kitten because it’s got a Vicky, the lovable, sticky goo that holds the rest together.]
Secondary characters also narrate from their point of view, including:
- Martin: With his memories of past lives and expectations for future ones, Martin has reached a level of self-acceptance none of the other characters ever achieve. “Karma can take its time, but it usually makes its mark in the end.” Oddly, this brings with it a detached perspective that makes him a good counselor but not a leader (or a lover). With his detached view and multi-lives experience, Martin is the book’s moral compass, the one who muses, “…the difference between men like Dex and most people is not only knowing the difference between right and wrong, but actually giving a shit.”
- Flora: At first I thought Flora was introduced as the foil to Lottie’s kickass tough girl approach. Raised as a corporate princess, Flora’s only dreams were to have a life exactly like her parents. “Before the virus I had a lovely life. I was so contented; my only ambition was to find a man like my father, and be the perfect wife and mother, like Mummy.” While Lottie exhilarates in the dangers and challenges of their new world, Flora clings to the old one, waiting patiently for “the government” to restore her old world. Despite enduring rape, assault, hunger, her parents’ death, and worst of all, lack of showers, Flora believes her new life is only temporary. “I just keep hoping that one day I’ll get my real life back. It must be possible. It must be.” Her faith seems to be rewarded when she gets a chance to move to UK2, where all her dreams come true when she’s chosen as the spokesperson for the Juno Initiative, matched to her love-at-first-sight husband, and almost instantly pregnant. Flora is, she’s constantly assured, the face of the new generation, and of the future. After she cheerfully exchanges every possible human right and liberty for the safety, protection, and warm showers promised in UK2, Flora slowly begins to realize how much she and her fellow UK2 residents have given up.
- Doyle: Unlike Flora and other UK2 residents, Doyle has both the experience and the intelligence to understand early that UK2 is really a prison. In his surveillance job at UK2, he tries some small subversions, only reporting the minimum number of infractions necessary to deflect attention, and secretly documenting what he sees. To his own disgust, he even goes along on recruiting trips, repeating the promises he already knows to be lies. “I try not to despise myself. I hate what I’m doing, and keep telling myself that ratting people out is just part of my job, as ratting me out is, I am sure, part of someone else’s. Most of the time, though, I don’t believe my own bullshit.”
- Karma’s a Bitch: Okay, so karma isn’t really a character. But—call it Fate or Life or Mother Nature or a Universe with a sick sense of humor—there’s a spirit behind the short chapters in italics that chart the beginnings of the biggest threat yet, one that even the hubris of Project Renova can’t control.
So who gets it right in the end? The answer—Flora—was a surprise to me, and a brilliant piece of writing, even by the standards of a terrific writer like Terry Tyler. Doyle and Flora represent two answers to the question about why good people don’t stop bad things. Why did the German people go along with the Holocaust? What explains friends and neighbors’ willingness to go along with apartheid in South Africa, segregation in the American South, internment camps for Japanese-Americans during WW2? Flora’s belief in her government, Doyle’s fear of consequences, their longing for the safety and amenities promised by the shadowy leaders of UK2—these are all reasons for giving up their personal freedom.
The parallels with Nineteen Eighty-Four and with the Third Reich are blatantly obvious. Even as Doyle and Flora and some of their friends prepare to risk all for their freedom, UK2 leaders prepare gas chambers and death squads in a last ditch effort to fight the impersonal plague they themselves unleashed. And, in a final brilliant touch, a small ark promises salvation.
These thoughts don’t even begin to cover the themes and layers of this amazing trilogy. I can’t recommend UK2 highly enough—but ONLY after you’ve read the earlier books in the series.
***I received this book from the publisher or author to facilitate an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***
Book Title: UK2 (Project Renova, Book 3)
Author: Terry Tyler
Genre: Post-apocalyptic/Dystopian Science Fiction
Length: 493 pages
Release Date: Amazon (27 March, 2018)