Score: 91/100 (9.1 out of 10)
“THAW” by A.C. Kabukuru has some of the best world-building we've seen! It ranks up there with the “Gilraen and the Prophecy” trilogy by Dr. Joanne Reid and “Grydscaen Dark” by Natsuya Uegusi DuBois in that regard. However, like “Water Witch” by Kelly Brewer, its great world and story as well as its interesting characters get somewhat marred by an amateurish style and novice formatting. There is a notable lack of page numbers, inconsistent indentations, and double-spacing between paragraphs and lines of dialogue for some reason.
UPDATE: The author has fixed the formatting issues mentioned above.
With all that said, like the aforementioned work by Brewer, beneath the superficial problems hides a tremendous world and story! With a little work, this could easily be a 9.3 out of 10!
We're not kidding when we say that this is some of the best world-building we've seen. This is a whole world built on the idea of extending life far beyond what we currently perceive as its natural limits, an example of transhumanism--the pursuit of bettering the human condition through science and technology.
In essence, this is the classic Frankenstein story taken into the future and given wings. Instead of being a fringe science like in Mary Shelley's tale, the science of preserving and resurrecting/curing the dead or dying is almost as acceptable as biology itself. Cryonics, as it's called in the novel, is the practice of preserving the bodies of the dead or dying in the hopes that someday—with scientific and medical advancements—there can be a cure in the future. It's a chilling (pun intended) yet completely understandable and relatable proposition. Who doesn't want to keep their loved ones or themselves from dying? Who doesn't want to avoid that pain of loss and heartache?
It's utterly fascinating!
It's amusing that the apocalypse is essentially California's fault (pun intended), albeit natural (ripple effects of earthquakes) and not man-made. The social commentary is abundant, covering everything from population control to the meaning of life itself. Ok, the latter is a little bit of a stretch, but the discussion about what it means to live a quality life versus a long one definitely hits home.
Now, it's not entirely the most original idea. Ironically, the author seems aware of this, alluding to this idea being used in Captain America, Demolition Man, and Austin Powers. However, the author is skillful enough and imaginative enough to make this feel fresh and new as well as real.
There are a few things about this world that actually seem plausible. For example, marriage is treated very differently in this world but not without rationale. Marriages are essentially given 10 year licenses that can either be extended/renewed or allowed to expire. This seems to be because of the prevalence of divorce and that longer lifespans made sticking with one partner for a whole lifetime more of an arduous task than it was before. The LGBTQ couple in the story seems to be on the verge of making the decision on whether to remain married or not in light of increasing work stressors and the strain its creating on their relationship. It's a pretty standard dilemma for a protagonist who is a project-obsessed workaholic.
What's also quite amusing is that George, by far the most interesting character in the novel, brings some of his memories of our time to the year 2163. This even includes the kinds of diets we used to use (i.e. keto, American) which fly in the face of what's accepted at the time, with much of the world's population apparently accepting plant-based diets while saving meat meals for special occasions. What's pretty interesting is that you can almost hear the embrace-of-propaganda rolling off of Kelley's tongue when she tries to explain the new dietary habits. That's actually some skill on behalf of the author in terms of saying a lot with few words. We can gather from what little Kelley says about it that the real reason meat and the American diet went out of fashion isn't really health-related, it's actually cost and production-related. It's just too expensive to eat that way in their time, likely due to inflation, and it's more difficult to produce so much meat for a population that has grown exponentially.
The other thing about this world that's fascinating is the existence of a “universal income” system to make up for the widespread unemployment caused by the A.I.s taking over much of the workforce. So, socialism finally, mercifully worked after like 315 years of trying and dying to implement it while unscrupulous leaders let human nature corrupt them into taking over and mismanaging the means of production and the redistribution of wealth (and food), thus leading to the greatest man-made famines in recorded history. It's a good thing that finally got solved.
So, essentially everyone in post-apocalyptic 2163 gets stimulus checks throughout the year which helps them to get by “more or less.” Isn't that comforting? So work becomes a choice rather than a necessity. Isn't that even more comforting? But where does the saintly, uncorrupted government get all the money to redistribute to the people if the people aren't working and not making their own money? Do they give the money to the people only to then take some of the money back in taxes? Do they just print more money, thus driving inflation? Do they just tax the people who were bored enough or dumb enough to work to make extra money? Would there possibly be more scientists and visionaries like Kelley if there were actual, tangible financial motivations to pursue a career or to start a business? Why would you start a business if you could stay at home and play Sudoku all day and make a living “more or less” playing Sudoku all day?
But it's such a cool thought just imagining never having to work and being paid to stay alive, perhaps free to pursue your own passions and hobbies. That's such bliss. It would be heaven on earth, wouldn't it? The pure joy that comes from being financially free.
Author A.C. Kabukuru is actually a pretty brilliant person. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Texas with a degree in Literary Studies and has a Masters in Communication from Boston University. At the beginning of this review, we compared her work to that of a doctor's (Joanne Reid), so that should tell you a lot.
What can we say? This novel is a fantastic sci-fi novel. When you look deeper and get into the story, it's great!
It's actually the highest-rated sci-fi book over 60% through the contest!
Check it out on Amazon!