Title: Our Dried Voices
Author: Greg Hickey
Genres: Dystopia, Mystery, Science Fiction
Length: 170 pages | 2708 locations
Planet Earth goes through several changes over the centuries, some of them good and some of them bad. The human population is forced to exile to planet Pearl and that is where our story unfolds. The colony has existed for a few hundred years, in a complete utopic state where the routine is sacred and nothing breaks down nor much ever happens. When incidents start unfolding which disturb said routine, people start to panic. It is up to Samuel to try and figure out what is happening.
Our Dried Voices first presents us to a chronology depicting the evolution of current day society into one which, amongst a couple more world wars, actually manages some great achievements like a practical use to non pollutant energy sources and the cure of numerous diseases from the common cold to cancer and HIV. However, after centuries of abuse of our planet, it continues to degenerate, and mankind is forced to seek out an alternative to our planet. The chronology ends with a ship of thousands of colonists landing on planet Pearl, which is later developed in the epilogue.
When the narrative itself begins, we are introduced to what we can only assume are descendants of the humans who landed on Pearl, because we are told that the action develops in that planet and that the colony has been established for hundreds of years.
Said descendants are really nothing more than cattle with human resemblances. They seem to have the intelligence of sheep and do nothing but play in the meadow and river, eat, sleep and mate randomly. They are capable of speech, but it is a jumbled sort, with no pauses between words.
At that point I was thinking… No. There is no way we evolved into that. Those have got to be some indigenous people the colonists first found when they landed and decided to do freaky experiments on. I was bored and kept hoping things would start making sense soon. Why are we being presented to such creatures? What is going on?
So then stuff starts to happen. The creatures (who we keep being told are humans) don’t know how to deal with it. When the normal order is magically restored, they have completely forgotten what happened. So it’s basically pages and pages of a whole lot of nothing.
Here is what I disliked the most about the book:
– The writing, for the most part. There is a lot of telling and not nearly enough showing. I felt there were whole blocks of information being dumped. There is this object, with these characteristics and then this happens. Very few dialogues to give dynamics. It was hard to resist the urge to skim through the text.
– The plot development was not organic. The main character made assumptions which, to me, seemed to come out of the blue and from those correlations the plot moved on, without there being much proof or development…
1. When the incidents first begin, breaking up their well established routine which had never failed before, there are a few smarter cookies in the jar who seem to almost wake up from their huge slumber. It really is as they were asleep or under drug influence all that time and then the torpor vanishes and their eyes get brighter and they begin getting curious about their surroundings. That part I enjoyed.
At first, we – along with the main character – notice a woman who is obviously different from the rest in that way; she seems perkier and smarter in general. For some reason, our Samuel nicknames her The First Hero. More heroes come. Why they are called heroes? No idea. I could tell of no connection between such smarter folks popping up and the problems being solved; they just walked around looking smarter than everyone else – but we are told that was the case.
2. Samuel starts finding little torn papers which he treats as clues. Why say that these drawings were not merely portents of barbarous things to come, but a carefully devised system of messages by which these people communicated their plans to one another? Where did that even come from? Isn’t it safe to assume they all came from the same place and are more than able of speaking to each other? It seemed obvious to me that there had to be some other reason.
There were more but those examples should suffice for now, I really don’t want to give too much of the plot away.
– Probably my biggest problem with this book is that it had so much potential. Generations survived in this colony. We get to Samuel. The colony is all Samuel and his neighbours have ever known. How would someone like that view the world and the things that start happening? I mean really view it since it was the first time any of that ever happened.
Instead, we get presented to a narrative where descriptions of his actions and thoughts are riddled with analogies of things he could not possibly know, living in the meadow all his life, and I am left wondering where it all came from.
Again, I don’t want to give too much away, so let’s stick with one of the most basic things, the speech: One minute our main character is speaking in that jumbled manner as all others, and the next he speaks proper sentences, with proper pauses, knowing exactly where each word ended and began, almost as if he suddenly remembered how to do it. How??
It would have been so much engaging if we would see him trying to compare the new things to stuff he actually knew! Perhaps things we would find completely ridiculous knowing better, but at least it would make sense that Samuel would think like that.
– Then there were little things which were way too simplistic, like a weather machine which no one really knows how it works but is capable of changing the atmosphere in seconds by merely touching a button corresponding to what weather you want to create… *heavy sigh*
The ending was beyond abrupt and nonsensical. He leaves the second colony because their intentions towards the first one are obviously not good; they only want the smart individuals and to hell with everyone else – heck maybe they planned on doing something nasty to them, all they had to do was push a button and leave them all to die – so instead of trying to save them or at least teach them how to survive on their own, he picks up his girlfriend and leaves? Seriously?? How is he any better than the people he chose not to join?
The epilogue left me feeling completely dismayed. While it was all very believable and I can tell the author put a lot of research into it (though I have to admit I skimmed through large portions of it), I thought that the whole thing meant that what humankind did to Earth would repeat itself on Pearl – after all, they did eradicate all diseases, so another overpopulation problem was only a matter of time – and so I actually finished the book feeling pretty sad.
In conclusion, even though the idea that the author wants to leave us with is very thought-provoking and even original – that mankind could evolve (or devolve) into something like that -, the fact that the plot did not develop in a cohesive manner, that the writing was for the most part a dump of info with references which were just not believable, and that I could never relate to the characters (it was somewhat enjoyable trying to figure out the puzzles – but me as Ana, not me as the reader actually feeling like they are in the main character’s shoes) all caused me not to feel engaged with the story. I am rounding the 1.5 stars up instead of down because I do appreciate the premise, the possibility of it happening, and I enjoy the descriptions of the colonists waking up from their apathy, but overall it just wasn’t a very positive experience.
Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Read from April 29 to May 02, 2015