SNOW OVER UTOPIA is the most batshit crazy book I’ve ever read. It’s like Snowpiercer and Legend hooked up in a post-human hellscape, dropped a shit ton of acid and proceeded to viscerally tear each other apart limb by limb.
This genre-defying story is set in a post-human age that has moved so far beyond our own world that it’s simply unrecognisable, where fanatical and sadistic slave masters rule company towns with an iron fist, where mutantoid creatures monitor the transmissions of living computer programmes and biohacking demon worshippers battle genetically modified forest hunters in a twisted and brutal apocalyptic landscape. A world where blue eyes are rare and mystical.
Amidst all this a young woman called Eden has her blue eyes brutally cut out of her head by greedy and covetous company men and is left for dead before being rescued by the living computer programme known as Witch Mother and sent on a mission to the city of Utopia, ruled by the ruthlessly fascistic and bloodthirsty Robot Queen, where Eden hopes her eyes can be restored.
I’ll say at the outset this book is not going to be for everyone. It’s not conventional. It’s heavy on atmosphere and light on character. And it’s very, very dark. And I don’t mean dark in the usual sense that it has morally ambiguous characters who do bad things; I mean the thing is absolutely saturated with brutal oppression, violence and visceral prose that at times is stifling and nauseating.
It’s not a book that treats the reader kindly and yet, in the face of all that, I felt this was a book ultimately about hope. This was reflected quite masterfully in a wonderful synergy between the setting and Serna’s prose; both are savage, merciless and yet at the same time shot through with a poetic beauty that is both evocative and strangely optimistic. What I particularly love about Serna’s writing (and it’s something he shares with other great world builders like William Gibson and Tade Thompson) is the confidence he has to throw you in at the deep end of the unrecognisable world he’s created and just let you sink or swim. I was absolutely pulled into his bizarre setting and yeah, I found it difficult to keep up at times, but for me this just means that Serna has succeeded in imagining and creating a world so far beyond our current idea of humanity that it’s inherently difficult to wrap your head around. And he’s done it masterfully.
Snow Over Utopia is a book that starkly highlights the importance of small presses. I mean never say never, but I can’t see a Big Five publisher ever willing to take a risk on a book like this. It’s simply not mainstream enough. Not conventional enough. Not marketable enough. And yet we need books like this. Props to Apex for putting out books like Snow Over Utopia and for being such important engines of experimental and unconventional storytelling.
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