Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Hugely entertaining and expertly crafted, this is a big door-stop of a book, and the tale of a future Earth that is perilously close to its demise at the hands of the dying sun.
The story centres on one man's account of the climactic events that lead to the end of civilisation as we recognise it. It's also a prison diary of his own incarceration into the brutal penal system known only as 'The Island'. His story is one of self-important ignorance, pomposity, and surprisingly agile adaption as his personal situation takes on radical change. We meet the best and worst of humanity and everything in between. We bear witness to creatures and beings evolved specifically for this new world, and others who are deliberately altering themselves in a bid to force adaptation.
Cage of Souls is a rollicking adventure while at the same time being deeply thoughtful. At it's heart it is a superbly written piece of eco-fiction that will draw you into a new reality only to challenge it in the next chapter. Set so far into the future that humanity is scarce and evolution has continued to adapt life to this new environment of extremes, we see our central character explore a lot of the different (and threatening) environments that have arisen, most notably the otherworldly prison where anyone who cares to challenge authority ends up, their time there being only slightly better than death.
The genius of Cage of Souls is that for all the lessons and morals on offer - a satire of politics, a cautionary tale of resource exploitation, humanity's seemingly reluctance to live in harmony with the natural environment - it never bashes you over the head with it's message, rather it takes a lighter approach and makes fun of a lot of human nature and it's shortcomings. Little wonder this book is in the running for the Arthur C. Clarke Awards this year, and this author knows how to win prizes having been the recipient of the exact prize for his Sci-Fi Epic Children of Time in 2015.
If you're after a world-building masterpiece of speculative fiction, filled with imagination and flawed characters, then this one is for you!
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