By Jadah McCoy
Artificial by Jadah McCoy is the authors debut and the first book in a planned series called The Kepler Chronicles. Set in 2256, the story unfolds on Earth’s first colony amongst the stars, the aforementioned Kepler.
As humanity traversed through the deep dark of space, they decided to entrust their well-being to artificial life they’d created to endure the vast loneliness of the journey, androids. Unfortunately, they didn’t take into consideration how their creations might feel about being left alone for such a long period of time, or anything that came after for that matter.
The colony thrives for a while, with shining cities built to the testament of the greatness of humanity, all on the back of android exploitation. No longer willing to tolerate their lack of rights and the disposable way in which they’re treated, the synthetic life forms unsurprisingly rise up. This rebellion gives way to the Android War, a horrifying conflict between humanity and android-kind, a brutal struggle ending in the almost complete decimation of human life by android creations, genetically engineered human-insects: The Cull.
Initially we follow Syl (short for Sylvia) as she struggles to understand what being human is, or once was, trying to survive in the inhospitable ruins of a city devastated by a long-past war and reclaimed by nature, and more terrifyingly, the Cull. By day she scavenges with a group, tracking down ever dwindling supplies in the carcass of the dead city known as Elite, trying to support the few remaining terrified humans in their corner of the colony. By night they hide deep within the crumbling sewers, fearful of the certain death that lurks above ground from the seemingly never-ending supply of the nocturnal genetic horrors.
Syl is capable but has the kind of short temper that comes with youth and little guidance, plagued by guilt and weighed down by the expectations of her fellow survivors, its only a matter of time before the mix gets her in trouble. She discovers that the Androids didn’t fall foul of the Cull as they’d always thought, they’re very much alive.
As things unfold we’re then given the viewpoint of ‘Bastion’, or model BA-5T10N, an android not quite on the bottom rungs of his society, trying to stay out of trouble. The former nanobot junkie pedals in pleasure for those of his kind that can afford it, though his profession is nothing to hide, he has other things about himself he doesn’t make public. He’s what’s known amongst his kind as a “Glitch”, an Android that experiences feelings and they’re almost as reviled as humans and come with the distinct possibility of permanent death with no back-up.
Artificial sits quite firmly in the realms of Science Fiction, though its also sits firmly in the Romance camp too. The relationship between Syl and Bastion is established and subsequently crystalized by events and the secrets revealed about their respective worlds. The android that feels and the girl that doesn’t know what to feel sounds a bit twee but its handled deftly; though I do hope that both get a little more individual character development down the line.
Romance titles aren’t typically my cup of tea, but I found the relationship between the protagonists considerably believable despite the setting. What did grate was Syl’s constant petulance in the face of basically everything. I suspect she was supposed to come across as spirited, where as I simply found her stroppy and it was a struggle to warm to her character despite the horrors and hardships she faces.
It was a perfectly enjoyable light read, but its the setting and set-up for the next in the series that holds the most interest and promise for me. In McCoy’s world humanity has built its legacy and fuelled its expansion with slavery not for the first time in its history, which has backfired severely. With humanity laid so low for so long, something surely has to change? I look forward to finding out.
Written on 8th April 2016 by Lisa Trott.