Author: Anderson O’Donnell
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
In a secret laboratory hidden under the desert, a covert bioengineering project—codename “Exodus”—has discovered the gene responsible for the human soul.
Somewhere in the neon sprawl outside the nation’s collapsing economic core, a group of renegade monks are on the verge of uncovering a secret that has eluded mankind for centuries.
In a glittering tower high above the urban decay, an ascendant U.S. Senator is found dead—an apparent, yet inexplicable, suicide.
And in the streets below, a young man races through an ultra modern metropolis on the verge of a violent revolution….closing in on the terrible truth behind Exodus—and one man’s dark vision for the future of mankind.
Welcome to Tiber City.
Disclaimer: Although I know Anderson O’Donnell through the Indie Community I bought my own copy of this book and made no promises to him regarding a review.
Fast-paced, visceral and closer to probable than possible, O’Donnell has created the best near-future dystopian Lit Fic I have read since The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. Bio-Punk isn’t a new term, but it’s gaining ground and KINGDOM deserves to be at the top of the list of books to read in said genre. There simply aren’t enough stars to communicate the impressiveness of O’Donnell’s work here. He has taken religion, science, politics, theory and philosophy and blended them all together to create what is easily one of the most important books to come out this year. And I say that with all the humility of a fellow author who has written a Lit Fic that I wrote to try and do my part to change the world.
O’Donnell’s writing is impressive in craft as well as scope. His prose weaves through the stories of three men, Dylan Fitzgerald, whose father was a US Senator who committed suicide, Michael Morrison and Jonathan Campbell – co-creators of the Exodus program. Each man’s experience of the narrative is unique, but beyond Anderson’s ability to capture characterization is the remarkable work he’s done to write in completely different styles for each voice. Dylan’s sections are particularly notable because of his use of narcotics, despite being written in third person the stylistic writing creates a world the reader experiences through the lens of the character in question.
Literary Fiction is often looked on as snobby. Those of us who write it take a small amount of pride in a certain academic or intellectual value to our work. Lit Fic isn’t “just for fun.” That’s fine and dandy as long as you can still enjoy the story. Well, I can assure you not only is O’Donnell smarter than I am, he’s a whole lot Lit Ficier. KINGDOM can be enjoyed as a sci-fi tromp through near future dystopia without worrying about the deeper levels of religious lore or political and artistic trends but here are a few things worth noting when you read KINGDOM:
- Tiber City pulls it’s name from the Tiber River. I don’t know O’Donnel’s reason for this but I immediately think of Romulas and Remus and the founding of Rome. I’d love to know if that played into the narrative at all.
- Obscure but prophetic reference to the punishment of Korah: “During their journey through the desert Korah, Dathan and Abiram revolt against Moses’s leadership. God punishes the lot – the ringleaders plus 250 followers – by having the earth swallow them whole.”
- Assassin named “Al-Salaam” which translated from Arabic to “of peace”
- Repeated and non-traditional use of the trinity motif, including a miraculous conception and 3 Kings wandering the desert in search of a savior.
O’Donnell’s take on religion, the soul, the value of church vs. the value of community are all very complex. He touches on the corruption of the church system and magnifies it, introducing the reader to the CitiMart Church of Christ with a video greeting from a polished “Pastor Rick.” While religious imagery and themes run deep in KINGDOM, I personally didn’t see a criticism of faith or any particular belief system. Quite the opposite. O’Donnel has imbued his book with the necessity of a spiritual community, an internal faith that burns true without definition. Even the most hardened scientists of The Exodus Project ultimately have to reconcile their calculations with the existence of something outside of definition.
In addition to the beauty of the following passage, I hope you can see the truth. I do, I think part of my own emotional issues come from the same place as described here. Plus, who can resist a grover reference?
“In Dylan’s opinion, this trend – the embrace of the euphemism – only made the inevitable breakdowns in civilized behavior all the more atrocious. It was as though when the stark realities of life finally slithered their way under, over, around , and through all the artificial constructs man threw up, the strain was too great and people just snapped.”
Inside the bleak depictions of an America gone mad, magnified and personified by Tiber City (which even has it’s own little Coney Island!), there is a message of hope. The possibility of redemption remains and the existence of, if not God, a little something extra beyond our humanity that connects us and binds us to the divine, confirmed. KINGDOM is a heady book, a dense book, a book for thinking and mulling. It is also a good book.
Anderson O’Donnell has created in KINGDOM everything the Indie Revolution is supposed to stand for. A voice that otherwise wouldn’t have been heard, a message which couldn’t stay silent and an art that breathes new life into the stagnant waters of commercial publishing. The Hugo and Nebulous Award Winners have nothing on O’Donnell. Perhaps, he might just have something on them.
Pavarti K Tyler is an artist, wife, mother and number cruncher. She lives in the Washington DC area with her husband, two daughters and two terrible dogs. When not busy working as the Director of Marketing at Novel Publicity she spends her time penning her next novel.