The Matrix meets an Afro-futuristic retelling of Persephone set in a science fiction underworld of aliens, refugees, and genetic engineering.
Having destroyed Earth, the alien conquerors resettle the remains of humanity on the planet of Eleusis. In the four habitable areas of the planet—Day, Dusk, Dawn, and Night—the haves and have nots, criminals and dissidents, and former alien conquerors irrevocably bind three stories:
*A violent warlord abducts a young girl from the agrarian outskirts of Dusk leaving her mother searching and grieving.
*Genetically modified twin brothers desperately search for the lost son of a human/alien couple in a criminal underground trafficking children for unknown purposes.
*A young woman with inhuman powers rises through the insurgent ranks of soldiers in the borderlands of Night.
Their stories skate across years, building to a single confrontation when the fate of all—human and alien—balances upon a knife’s-edge
Warning from the publisher: This book is designed for audiences 18+ due to scenes of physical and sexual violence, and themes that some may find disturbing
Content Warning from me (the text is in white, please highlight if you would like to read the warning): repeated rape of female child soldiers
One of the best science-fiction books I’ve read in a very long time…
Please, read the content warnings and the blurb. This is a retelling of Persephone and the scenes mentioned in the content warning are heartbreaking-they are the Hell…they are also something that is happening in real life in present-once more science-fiction acts as a mirror to highlight the injustices and suffering that exists in our world.
The book gripped me from the very beginning and I had to put on hold everything else, while I read this powerful story. The timelines/story strands (Cora -a young girl with yet unknown special abilities is kidnapped by a paramilitary squad and forced to become a child soldier; genetically modified twin detectives search for a missing boy, a young woman is being released by a warlord, apparently free to come back to her mother and her former life) were clearly marked and easy to distinguish. You could see straightaway where and how they intersect and how the past they represent is shaping the present which is about to come.
The world-building in this book is amazing. Destroyer of Light is a sequel to Elysium which tells the story of a multi-dimensional alien race of krestge destroying the Earth. Some got lucky and managed to board transport ships and migrated to a new planet Eleusis where the society was supposd to be just and equal-after all, they are all survivors with the same background-right?wrong. The perpetual cycle of the select few grabbing technology and resources is reborn and the have nots are denied all but hard, backbreaking work that gives them basic subsistence, but doesn’t guarantee safety. The planet is divided into four sectors -Day, Dusk, Night, and Dawn with very different life conditions. Add the fact that some krestge followed the humans who fleed the Earth, although what they want now appears to be peace and trade.
It is difficult to discuss the characters without giving away the story. Cora goes through tremendous transformation -from the innocence and naivety of a simple girl from the Outlands to somebody infinitely wise, carrying the weight of life-altering decisions. The twins never lose their humility and compassion, despite their own tragic story. There is so much dignity and mother’s all encompassing love in the character of Deidra, especially if you view it in contrast with the character of the missing boy’s mother.
I found this book very atmospheric-even the names of the sectors where most of the action happens- the Dusk and the Dawn-suggest the battle beween the light and the darkness, moral ambiguity, the grey of our choices and decisions, the impossibility of knowing for sure the feelings and motivations of another human being (or alien-this is sci-fi, after all), the loneliness of a survivor.
Destroyer of Light has been nominated as one of the 20 Must Read Space Fantasy Books and although I rarely look at these lists, for once I have to agree-this is a very thought-provoking read with a great balance of intellectual and emotional. Sign me up for anything Jennifer Marie Brissett writes in the future!
Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Books for the review copy provided in exchange for an honest opinion.
JENNIFER MARIE BRISSETT has been a software engineer, web developer, and the proprietor of Indigo Café & Books in Brooklyn. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the Stonecoast MFA Program. Her stories can be found in Lightspeed Magazine, Motherboard/VICE, Uncanny Magazine, and FIYAH Magazine amongst other publications. Her debut novel, Elysium (Aqueduct 2014) received the Philip K. Dick Award Special Citation and has been a finalist for the Locus Award for Best First Novel and the Tiptree Award.
Image from the author’s page on Goodreads
Also by Jennifer Marie Brisset:
A computer program etched into the atmosphere has a story to tell, the story of two people, of a city lost to chaos, of survival and love. The program’s data, however, has been corrupted. As the novel’s characters struggle to survive apocalypse, they are sustained and challenged by the demands of love in a shattered world both haunted and dangerous.