Monday, September 28, 2015
The Scorpion Rules
Greta is one of the Children of Peace: Rulers in the post-apocalyptic world must give their heirs to a Precepture, sort of a holding camp, from the age of five until the heir turns eighteen. This is done to ensure that no country will wage war on another; if it happens, the heir is killed. It's a mostly successful system, one thought of by the great Talis, an AI who basically rules the world. As the story opens, Greta is certain that the approach of a Swan Rider means she will be killed, but the unfortunate punishment goes to a classmate instead. If she's momentarily relieved, it's fleeting; a new hostage, Elián, comes to the Precepture, and he is nothing but non-compliant. The AIs in charge must make an example of him, and by extension, those in his age group, which includes Greta and her roommate Da-Xia. That alone would be bad enough, but things go from bad to worse when Elián's country invades the Precepture in order to force Greta's country into terms for water. Greta's life hangs in the balance, and there's the reality that someone will have to account for the countries' actions.
There's a lot more going on, of course, including the daily life of study, gardening, and herding goats, but Greta knows her life is forfeit if her country becomes involved in a war. Dealing with AIs also involves torture and the expectation of a certain, reserved behavior, but when your life is on the line, it's hard to stick to all the rules. And with teenagers, there is, of course, a romantic aspect, but in this case, it's not necessarily what you think it's going to be.
Like I said, I really enjoyed this novel. I think Greta is entirely believable, and I found the circumstances surrounding the invasion of the Precepture to be realistic and horrific enough to ring true. There's torture and there are forbidden relationships; there are people who seem to be one thing and others that are just evil. I was a bit worried at first that Talis would become annoying, but surprisingly, I grew to enjoy his interactions. It's a good, edge of your seat story, and I have no problems recommending it to anyone who likes dystopians.