A master of world building…
(concept art by Stefan Morell)
I have a confession to make. After being so invested in and subsequently crushed by the the endings of Amy Bartol’s Premonition Series and especially the Kricket Series, I swore that I would not start reading the Secondborn Series until the last book was out and I could gauge other reader’s responses through the different fan groups on social media. Please understand, this was especially difficult because I love the way Amy writes, not only her characters but her worlds. Knowing this Meg, the Queen Bee, didn’t offer me the books to review. I started to go through some serious Amy withdrawals and reread the Premonition Series and the first book of the Kricket Series. If you have never read her works, there is something very unique about her world building, especially when it comes to the science fiction aspect of them. I finally broke down and devoured Secondborn and Traitor Born. As Meg reviewed, they deliver on everything that Amy is known for. Of course Meg thought it was hysterical then when I asked who was reviewing Rebel Born.
Rebel Born, and for that matter the whole Secondborn Series, is built on a complex and unique dystopian, sci-fi world. In one of Amy’s reader’s groups there was an opportunity to ask her questions I asked her what has influenced her sci-fi world building? Her response was extremely enlightening and really influenced my thought process as I read Rebel Born. Amy agreed to let me share her explanation:
Under Different Stars is definitely sci-fi. I was on that track before 47North got involved, but being at a sci-fi imprint makes you have to up your game. I liked making up new technology and naming it weird things, so I just stayed on the track I was on with the Kricket series…I noticed a few things about top selling books. They all seemed to have easily definable worlds. Kricket’s world is hard to describe. Try telling someone about it in a few short sentences. It’s super hard. I wanted to be able to define whatever world I wrote next in a way where people could immediately understand what it was about and tell a friend…So Jason, my editor at 47N called me and asked me what I was writing and I was like, “I don’t know. I’m stuck in Kricket’s world. What are you doing?” He told me he was trying to get some really popular book by a Chinese author. And I was thinking, “Well, that sounds cool. China…huh. What do I know about China?” What I knew was that they had a one-child policy for a while. So that was interesting. I began thinking about that and how I could build a world around it. And I finally decided (once I started writing it) that:
Firstborns ruled society, Secondborns were the property of the government, Thirdborns were not tolerated. Long live the Fates Republic.
…So I found it interesting to take government to the extreme–one that defines every aspect of a person’s life from birth. And I found it interesting to make Roselle someone who was born and raised to believe that she had almost no right to the body she inhabited. Making her arc change over time was gratifying, but then, in the third book, Roselle was right back where she started in the first book, but in an entirely different way–a horrifying way that makes how she began look like utopia. She has no control over her body and she has to fight for autonomy. I’ve been reading about some of the places we are heading as a society(world). This is one of them. Scientists already have tests that determine future ailments–which babies will more than likely develop cancer later in life. Neuro-enhancement is one of the largest growing fields of research. Quantum computing is just around the corner. Mind algorithms and AI are happening, whether we’re ready for them or not. So I just tried to imagine what a world like that would be like and I thought that it could make a species god-like (little g). It could make someone immortal and what would that be like? So that’s the direction I took with my world building because as a sci-fi author, my job is to think about where we’re going and make you (the reader) thing about the questions I’m asking. And I am asking you questions, like, are you ready for this? And I’m okay with some of the reviews I’m getting that are calling my book dark and ugly. It is. It has to be.
Rebel Born earned a solid 5 stars. It is more of the ending I wanted for her other two series. Amy developed the perfect crescendo to a very complex story, tying all of the pieces together, especially the relational ones, in a way that fit logically and left me satisfied with Roselle’s conclusion. Not only is Rebel Born extremely entertaining and captivating but Amy accomplishes her goal of making you ponder the issues she covers.