Paul reviews Renatus, a standalone science-fiction novella by Ryan Link.
|Genre: Sci-fi, Dystopia
|Date of Publishing: May 01, 2014
|Trigger Warnings: Drug use, addiction, death
|Page count: 138
The United States is no more. Over the course of the early 22nd century, it has dissolved into a set of hostile splinter nations; some have prospered, some have not. Political scheming and posturing have reached an all time high, fueled by hatred and paranoia.
But Aldon Prandtel doesn’t care about any of that. Years ago he lost his family, descended into despair, and ended up living on the streets of northern St. Louis. Now, his only objectives are to stay alive and find his next hit of Trax, a mind-bending substance that has ensnared millions. What he doesn’t know is that those in power have plans for him that aim to shake the new and tenuous world order . . .
RENATUS by Ryan Link is a novella that blew me away. Despite being only 138 pages, it was polished, perfectly balanced, told a complete and engaging story and painted a vivid portrait of its dystopian world.
Set in the early 22nd Century, the U.S.A. has imploded and now is made up of several independent territories. RENATUS is set in the North American Union (N.A.U.), a land of disparity where the top 10% have it good while the rest are likely addicted to TRAX and spend their nights avoiding the murderous ‘Curfew Crews’. Our protagonist Aldon Prandtel is a child of both worlds, once a renowned scientist, now an addict existing from hit to hit.
The world itself is amazingly realised, and while you only see the city of St. Louis, you really do get a fantastic overview of the city and, as a consequence, N.A.U. society as a whole. Renatus’ world of high-tech, disparity, and social control made me think of Minority Report and Elysium, with perhaps a dash of Ender’s Game.
Aldon is a great character, and as with every other aspect of RENATUS, Link manages to get so much out of his characters despite the page count. From the very beginning, Aldon is a character who you can root for and empathise with. He’s carrying more than his share of demons and is continually fighting them from the first page to last, and so makes for an extraordinarily human character.
I enjoyed his happiness at being ‘accepted’ back into his old academic world and the slow realisation that he wasn’t there as an equal but as a lesser, a feral animal turned pet, useful only as long as he obeyed. The tension slowly builds until you hit the 60% mark and realise invisible bars have been being built around him the whole time.
All of the other characters bring their own weight to the narrative and don’t waste their time on the page. A special shout out to Walther Westcott, who is very reminiscent of a certain Peter Weyland—genius, bastard, deliciously nasty.
Link’s writing is smooth and full of detail, with the perfect balance between explanation and action.
It has all the style of a Hollywood sci-fi movie but is replete with thought-provoking social commentary.