★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2
Regeneration is the second part of an absolutely stunning duology. Read it if you liked Kameron Hurley’s Bel Dame series, and especially read it if you wanted to like God’s War but didn’t. Dissension and Regeneration are stunning, like listening to the delicate strumming in Mark Knopfler’s Romeo and Juliet, and the crescendo of Song of Silence by Disturbed. Powerful, angry, conflicted, desperate, and just the tiniest bit hopeful.
Read it if you like characters who struggle with duty and love. A basic cliche, I know. But I hate almost everything to do with capital ‘R’ Romance books, so take it from me that there isn’t anything romancey about it. This is a passion that segues into obsession. Set in post-apocalypse setting, this series is so much more sophisticated than any description can give. Narration is third person, focused on Echo. Echo is a clone, brought up to be a soldier–a police officer–for the Church in her isolated town. After the events of the last book, Echo has headed out into the wilderness, looking for signs of other human life.
“Echo lay alone, adrift in this faraway place where even the wind smelled strange, sounded strange too as it soughed its way through trees grown greener and denser than she’d ever seen, like the desert in bloom a hundred times over. She counted her breaths, in and out until her heartbeat steadied.“
Like A Canticle for Liebowitz, we approach the apocalypse sideways, from the current setting, only gradually building an idea of what might have happened. Actually, in Regeneration, we approach it from yet another perspective, as Echo has been rescued from the desert and brought to a completely new settlement, father from any place her people had ever been able to travel and survive. Roughly the first third of the book is her trying to learn about the settlement of the Preservers from her own narrow and indoctrinated perspective. Because while Echo may no longer be an absolutely true believer in the Church she served since childhood, she remains absolutely devoted to the Saint who powers her city–her former lover, Lia. What follows is Echo grasping at a faint hope for the Saint, not even voiced.
“Why do you care so much about the Saint?” Her breath hitched, but she forced her voice to come out steady. “I live to serve.” They were the right words. They explained nothing.”
To make it sweeter, it’s a sci-fi story that more than passes the Bechdel test. As Berg wrote in a post, she wrote a book she wanted to read, “I wrote about women, strong, conflicted, frightened, brave. I gave them hard choices with dire stakes. I put them in a world where no one even notices their gender, only that they’re in love.” She succeeded. After finishing, I’m left in one of those book-hangovers where I don’t know how to even find words.
There are, of course, a few problems, perhaps partly to do with the psychology of people within the world Berg created. For the most part, characters are complex, with the exception of one or two. Echo herself will perhaps be hard for some to relate to, as she is very logical and strategic, a soldier mentality and not a verbose or over-expressive.
I’ll keep Berg on my to-watch list, and remain hopeful that she continues to take time out from medical research to write.