LENGTH: 40-60k words (281 pages)
GENRES: Sci-fi, fantasy
AUDIENCE: Adult and Young Adult
SELF-PUBLISHED THROUGH: Amazon
Irradiance by David Bruns takes us to the world of Sindra where people communicate telepathically, love is forbidden, and the only relationship that matters is the one between a citizen and their community. The planet is troubled by a wide range of environmental challenges, including terrestrial storms, solar flares and radiation showers. The story focuses on Maribel, an astrophysicist and mother of young twins, who has made an alarming discovery regarding the planet’s sun. The planet’s government wants the information suppressed. Maribel must decide whether to share information that may be critical to the survival of all of the other citizens—a decision that might put Maribel and her family at risk—or follow the edict of Council Elder Veelich, the founder of the community, and stay quiet. At the same time, Maribel’s twins, Gideon and Sariah, have always seemed different from other children, and there are hints that they had been genetically engineered at the hatchery for a specific purpose that Maribel and her husband, Reese, do not yet know about.
The story takes us from hyperspace jumps, to meetings of an underground quasi-rebel group disguised as a Book Club, to the interesting edicts of an egalitarian totalitarian society. The premise is fascinating and the world development is detailed and original. The notion of “recycling” nonconforming citizens and the description of the recycling plant are appropriately sinister and well thought out. There is a lot going on here, and some things such as Maribel’s dreams, Reese’s time-bending, and the precise nature of the Joining ceremony are not fully explored, presumably because Bruns is building for other books in the series.
Irradiance was a fast-paced, fun read with likable characters and a spooky sense of foreboding that dominated. The dystopic, but not too dystopic, world of Sindra was intriguing enough to be a character in its own right. Maribel was a strong and refreshing female lead—intelligent and willing to push boundaries without being reckless or domineering. Reese, as her counterpart, was enjoyably sensitive and yet still very masculine. The first half of the book was excellent and unputdownable. There were some minor flaws. The last quarter of the book seemed a bit rushed in spots, and some of the challenges faced by the protagonists were addressed a bit too easily. Maribel seemed at times too sanguine that Reese would be able to protect the children. The main antagonists were somewhat two-dimensional and often took matters into their own lone hands, rather than sending minions, as one might expect. Still, these did not interfere with enjoying the book.
The world-building, ideas, and promise contained in the first half of Irradiance make it well worth a read. Overall, the plot hangs together, and there are plenty of unanswered questions and cool plot lines to pursue in book two. One has the sense that future books in this series will be even better as this writer hits his stride. This is true science fiction so probably would not appeal to those who do not like the genre. Those who want to explore an intriguing new world and meet some great characters, with more novels to come, should pick up a copy.
Four stars. A really enjoyable read and fantastic dystopic world, with great promise for the series.
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Jennifer Ellis is the author of A Pair of Docks, a fantasy adventure for kids and adults, and In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation, about a kinder and more romantic dystopic future. She lives in a ski town and works as an environmental researcher. Find her at www.jenniferellis.ca.