New Hi-Fi Sci-Fi At Its Classic Best
The debut, dystopian future sci-fi novel from author CM Genton delivers the classic sci-fi goods with a today twist on the speculative world of tomorrow.
A short while ago, I was contacted by email and offered a copy of the debut sci-fi work from Kentucky Fried Christian subscriber and author CM Genton for a review. Happy to help spread the word for a fellow member of the wordsmith guild, I gladly accepted the offer with the promise to get to the review as soon as I could squeeze out some time from the days in which I already have little time to take a breath, to read a book.
I finally found the time, I finally was able to read the book, and I'm grateful for the experience to have spent some time in the world of Sons of Adamah, available in hardcover, paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca and Barnes & Noble.com.
To begin with, let me qualify what I'm about to say about the novel with a little of my own backstory. Science-fiction as a writing category was one of the earliest of my literary loves. Ever since I was about seven in 1972 and on our first and brand new color TV (a “space-age” 26” Panasonic with a cabinet that could double as a bar in a gaudy gentleman's club), I saw my first episode of Star Trek, “The Arena.” When you're a wide-eyed 7-year-old boy and you turn the channel and see a man on the screen in a desert fighting with another man dressed in a green, rubber lizard suit with silver microphone caps for eyes and drooling and grunting at saurian decibels, you're hooked, and I was.
From as old as I was able to read at an adult level (which wasn't too long after what I just told you about), as an avid and insatiable reader, I gobbled up anything sci-fi I could get my hands on. Which began a journey into countless strange new worlds with new life and new civilizations that lasted me well into my early adulthood. My sci-fi chops comprise most of the alphabet from Asimov to Zamyatin.
However, as I grew older and drew nearer to the Lord (this is Kentucky Fried Christian. You expected me not to get God into this somehow?), my interest in all things sci-fi began to wane as I became less and less attracted to or enthusiastic about spending time with stories taking place on worlds or on earth in times and in what began to feel to me as cold, sterile, forlorn universes devoid of God's completing presence in them, that I just didn't feel good about being in and reading about anymore.
For example, if you've ever read Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End, you know what I mean. The story's about the death of humanity, whose physical existence is extinguished while the individual consciousnesses of every human are absorbed into a collectivist alien hive mind; and as if that weren't enough to drive the contemplative mind to hysterical extents of existential despair, it's also about the last living human who's chosen to stay alive to witness the event; who watches all of humanity go “Poof!” right before his eyes and then, as the last living human, watches all of material reality disintegrate, along with himself with it.
See what I mean?
So the last sci-fi I read–the first I even felt like in years–was sometime last year and it was Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly, which I only picked up because a social media blurb about it made the premise sound intriguing. It's one of those near-future, dystopian America stories in which future-people lead pointless and self-destructive existences of futility that mostly end in senseless death, that I didn't really “enjoy” so much as endured; and that left me feeling so depressed it reminded me of why I stopped consuming most sci-fi at all anymore.
So, given all that, when CM Genton asked me if I wanted to read her novel–a sci-fi work she described in her email as a “gender dystopia”–I had to ask myself: “Do I?”
But then, when she went on to qualify that characterization with “intent on affirming traditional views of male/female bodies,” that, and being happy to help out a fellow writer, is what made me decide to take the dive.
And ultimately, both as an author and a reader, I'm glad I did.
The Author and The Story
According to Genton (a fellow Canadian), and her website, she wrote Sons of Adamah in seminary (Regent College, Vancouver, Canada), after completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing at the University of British Columbia. The part of the story that doesn't take place on the distant planetary colony Andropida, takes place in Vancouver, Canada, in which I lived for about a year and a half; and so I was pleasantly blessed with some wistful sentimentality as a result of reading about the place I know very well in a time and in a condition totally... alien to what I experienced and remember.
After a short prologue foreshadowing the angelic presences we discover only hinted at later on the story, but who tie everything that happens in the story together by the time we get to the end of it, the narrative gets underway in earnest on the Earth colony planet Andropida, where a scientific study group was sent to try to settle it as a place for humans to go in case Earth ever became uninhabitable; which is only the surface of a nefarious plot we find out about as it unfolds later.
We follow the story of John Elsbert Macabee Jr., a young man in whom a genetic anomaly is discovered and because of which, he's offered the standard choice to all genetic deviants on the colony: total isolation for life, euthanasia, or a risky return to Earth. Macabee's enticed to go home because his brother is on Earth, and he needs to find him. He makes the trip, survives it, and then has to integrate into an early 22nd century Earth now in a condition like the worst gender-dysphoric dystopia every gender dysphoric utopia cooking up in the minds of today's sexually-obsessed inevitably has to become something like.
Think the atmosphere of the original Blade Runner, with transgenders as an integral element of an essentially amoral, militantly secular but spiritually laissez-faire social (dis)order.
Where cricket powder is the main food staple, nobody gets anywhere in life without debauching themselves at something called “contact parties,” and eating animals or drinking coffee is a crime. The compliant live in the requisite panopticon society of any good sci-fi dystopia, while the socially non-compliant (either traditionalist or alternative strains) live as a rebel underground “off-grid.” The society’s a panoply of opposite social extremes, all of them struggling with their polar nemeses to establish themselves as the status quo in a humanity apparently on its last legs.
Searching for his brother, John learns, experiences, discovers and uncovers things leading him to a plot that involves a rich family who once profited from the old order on Earth before active and silent World Wars turned it into what it is at that time; and which is covertly using the colony on Andropida as a staging ground for an attack on the current Earth authority, with the aim of returning Earth to the way it once was.
These developments, and what he learns about himself, his own family, his brother and what's really been going on on Earth for the last hundred or so years, cause John to return to the colony to help the people with which he was born in space and grew up on the alien planet; and resolve the dilemma in which being in the middle of the struggle between the competing forces of the past and the future to determine the fate of both Earth and Andropida, put them.
That's as far as I want to go in describing the plot without spoiling any of it, which–because of how richly cobbled together and deeply layered the story is, and the fully ripened and mature way in which its narrative is developed and the author's writing style is executed, is worth the reader discovering on their own.
A Reader’s and Reviewer’s Impressions
I'm not going to critique the author's writing style, which is so often a matter of personal preference that many literary critics and commentators really disingenuously pick apart an author's style just to show how clever and “Gotcha!” they can get; except to say that Genton writes with a mature and informed style that's perfectly suited to the type of narrative involved, with which she comprehensively manages to create the environment, establish the atmosphere and execute the plot with a finesse that's impactfully eloquent because of its unadorned simplicity, unencumbered by what can often become distracting stylistic embellishments with which many–especially novice–authors mistakenly try to substitute, or at least supplement, substance with too many linguistic and literary bells and whistles.
There wasn't a single typographical error in the entire work. And you may think that's no kind of big deal at all, and so did I for most of my reading life, because it had never been an issue. Until I began discovering over the last decade or so–I suppose as technology takes over from where human diligence and dedication to detail used to dominate–the alarming and, frankly, unacceptable amount of typos authors and publishers appear to be carelessly letting slide through their finished product they expect people to pay good money for these days, as if buying a brand new car covered in dents and scratches is supposed to be totally fine.
Many of the reviews of Sons of Adamah I perused, focus solely on the sex and gender issues in the story as its dominant and most attractive feature. Although those issues are present in the narrative, they're–to the author's credit as a sign of her literary maturity–kept in the background as atmosphere and don't overshadow or distract from the narrative or the characters by being too on-the-nose, too foreground and too preachy. Genton maturely weaves her social as well as spiritual commentary into the narrative, but doesn't let it become the plot or distract from the plot or the development of the characters, their stories and the successful encouragement of the reader's attachment to them.
Genton–unlike many novice authors–also doesn't make her own personal views explicitly known as the disembodied intrusion of the narrator's detached voice into the story; choosing–again, responsibly and with literary maturity–to show and not tell her social, political, economic, spiritual, religious commentary through the atmosphere and environment, the characters, the narrative and the writing style, with suggestion and illustration rather than overt indication. She lets what she wants the reader to think about because of the story, develop as an organic and natural part of the narrative, instead of beating the reader over the head with a megaphone, which makes (to the mature reader), for a more compelling invitation to further thought on the issues Genton presents with her story.
And so, without them taking over and becoming the story itself or distracting from it, issues are presented: the senseless, counterproductive but frustratingly timeless tension between “patriarchy” and “matriarchy;” the struggle for supremacy between the demands of progress and the established and necessary roots of the past; the inevitable decline into authoritarianism and corruption of most materially-based movements for change; the friction between the normal sexual and gender attitudes associated with tradition, and the libertine and ultimately socially, spiritually and personally destructive attitudes associated with “Progress;” the struggle in the world and in ourselves between the spirit and the flesh; the rightful place and relationship in human civilization between the secular and the religious; the limits to which science can effectively serve as a teleology and a comprehensive existential cure-all; both virtues and vagaries of social integration versus social separation.
Although the environment of the narrative is an admittedly bleak, cold, sterile, dysfunctional and forlorn-feeling future, Genton manages to infuse all that with some touches of warmth and humor and the kind of sarcastic, sharply witty, commentative irony readers of this Substack are used to regularly seeing plenty of here.
The science part of the fiction is–to which my extensively well-read and informed science geek status can attest–sound and grounded in real, established science. In this sense it stands more comfortably and justifiably alongside anything from somebody like actual scientist Isaac Asimov, than beside something with the kind of fantasy, junk science more in line with much of what we're used to seeing from Star Trek, the CDC or Climate Change™.
So, even though I approached this reading and review initially with some trepidation because of the attitude I'd come to have after a significant part of a lifetime consuming sci-fi like breathing air or drinking water, as I'm tapping out the closing sentences of this review, it's with a pleasant feeling of having experienced some time well-spent with a novel well-written in a fantasy universe well-created with a story well-told and a satisfying ending that serves up plenty of food for thought.
Even if you're not a sci-fi fan, Sons of Adamah presents an engaging narrative that paints a very plausible picture of an almost universally godless human near-future in which the world of the spirit and the Word and Kingdom of God nevertheless have a clear presence and–if the future titles in a series proposed on her website are any indication–will have a significant, determining influence to come. From a Word of God perspective, you can look at it as a sci-fi take on a pre-Tribulation humanity: bleak, desolate, dystopian, dysfunctional, an almost inhuman, bestial humanity... but with a hope.
Two thumbs up.
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