Zan wakes up injured and with amnesia. She does not know who or where she is. The world to her, and to us, seems to be half mad. We are swept along with Zan and told as little as she is as she tries to piece together who she is.
Zan is on one of many worlds / spaceships that are actually living creatures. The walls and the floors are spongy, and they move between levels by using the umbilical cord. They have to cut open the skin to get outside! The further into the middle you go the more visceral and sticky the world gets.
These worlds, collectively known as the Legion, are stuck in their orbit around the false sun. They are slowly dying. Cancer eats away at them, and with each new generation the inhabitants are losing their knowledge on what they are and where they came from. They can barely control them and don’t know what half the equipment on them does.
The different worlds are in conflict with each other, fighting for resources, each of them salvaging what they can to heal their own worlds at the expense of the others.
One world, the Mokshi, has managed to leave it’s orbit and now everyone wants to board it and control it, to find out how it does it and hopefully create a new future for themselves.
The world building here is impressive and original. It reminds me of Iain M Banks space opera stories in its scope. Hurley creates the same sort of atmosphere and strangeness in her unique universe.
The characters are interesting if not always likeable, with realistic emotions and believable actions. Zan travels to the centre of the world and the people she picks up along the way are from different cultures with different life experiences, and each has their own distinct personality.
In the middle of the book, when Zan reaches the centre of the world it suddenly becomes a blend of sci-fi / horror, before bringing in elements of fantasy. I thought this was very well done, it didn’t feel out of place to me. I loved the sci-fi side, and the space battles, but this journey through the centre of the world was my favourite part of the book. Hurley’s imagination ran wild here, and there are some very inventive ideas as we learn more about what the world is and the different social and cultural groups in it.
As Zan struggles through the world trying to make sense of it and piece herself back together Hurley doesn’t shy away from showing us the darker side of humanity. There is love in this world, but also betrayal, fear, cowardice and prejudice as we see the things people are capable of doing to others and to themselves to get what they want.
There is a hopeless feel at times, the world is dying, the leaders rule by fear, and even if Zan gets back her memory where can she go from there? But just as it starts getting overwhelming for me Hurley shakes it all up again and reminds us there are good things in people too, when they are given the chance to show them.
There are answers given eventually, but not all of them are concrete ones. Some things are hinted at but left for you to fill in the gaps yourself. It might be very confusing at first but stick with it because Hurley’s world is worth the effort of getting to know!
I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.