Sunday, April 5, 2015

Salvation by Lizzie Ashworth

A week ago I would have told you that I had read some seriously sexually charged SF. I mean I've read everything from George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire to the sickness and depravity of L. Ron Hubbard's Mission Earth series to John Ringo's well... lots of stuff. There's a reason why you can buy T-shirts that say "Oh, John Ringo, No." and I've bought and read every novel the man has ever published. I've never come anywhere near a SF book with this much sex in it though. I'd be interested in speaking to someone who has read this and is a regular reader of romance to find out if this level of sex would even be common there. That much being said, this is more than just a book about sex. This is a tale told from the progressive point of view and set in the near future. Indeed, the sex fits in well with the plot, always advancing the story and/or character development.

The future isn't what it used to be either. This is a future where the entire planet is caught up in a mess. The temperature is rising. The planet is burning. Carbon poisoning is killing millions. Quality food is nearly impossible to get. The only thing that can save the people is the psychic energy generated by pleasure. It can be harnessed by people with psionic abilities and channeled through a not very well defined system into hospitals where it can be used to help cure people with various ailments.

The story is told mainly through the observations of three different point of view characters. Joshua "Josh" Carter is a nineteen year old man and a religious terrorist out to stop the culture of the pleasure centers, the "House of Rae" by bombing their flagship house. He slowly but surely begins to fall into decadence and enjoy the position that he has been hired for... that of a male prostitute. Raeleen "Rae" Lawson is the owner of the House of Rae and not only hires Josh against the advice of her security department  but takes him under her wing both to encourage him to be a good employee and because he turns her on. Lucas "Lu" Haverson is a senior employee in the House of Rae and Rae's former lover. He is also a psionicist and a pioneer in the technology that transports the pleasure energy. He is also suspicious of Josh and for all the right reasons.

Certain tendencies are accorded to the characters in a very well-defined and reasoned way, at least if looked at from a Leftist perspective. Lu is a womanizer who ended up with a job as a male prostitute because he loved the party lifestyle. Rae is a liberated woman who grew up with a strong religious background and turned a failed marriage into a multinational empire. Josh is a religious fanatic who believes that everything he is doing is sinful - except for planning to murder a bunch of people. He also has a strong streak of sexism and a belief that women should serve men. Again, from a leftist perspective, this all makes sense.

Oddly enough, for all of the environmental scaremongering that goes into this work there is a strong element of rightist elements to balance the leftism in areas outside of the environment and religion. Rae is a jilted woman but she is a capitalist of the first order, overseeing a multinational empire that helps make people well. Lu is basically a good man who has saved his whole life for his eventual retirement. Neither is mentioned as being a bad person for those tendencies. Both are shown as extremely sympathetic and Rae comes close to a breakdown when a couple of her Houses are attacked. Similarly, society's attitude toward mind-altering chemicals, marijuana in particular, can certainly be seen as a progressive attitude, but it would fit in at a Libertarian rally as well.

Overall, I found the book highly entertaining, although I would not necessarily recommend reading it at work. Anywhere else though, it's highly entertaining and action packed. Sex galore, flaming car wrecks, assaults on Houses, it's all there. There is a surprise or two along the way. Things go perfectly according to plan... until they don't. Ashworth does a good job at giving just enough foreshadowing to keep us from feeling blindsided by her plot twists while still leaving us just as surprised as her point of view characters.

Salvation, while being entertaining, is not a perfect work. The first chapter was clearly marked as being narrated by Josh but he felt female to me as I read it. The sensation wore off quickly, but it was definitely there and I was a little jilted when I realized that I was reading a male character. The tale is told in first-person but it takes place in three different people's heads and can be a bit disconcerting if you're reading quickly and skip over a chapter heading. Ashworth would also do well to do a bit more research on the rightist point of view as it may help her to make her characters even more believable. None of that is unforgivable though and at the end of the day it is an enjoyable work.

Bottom Line: 4.25 out of 5 Houses

Lizzie Ashworth
Create Space Publishing, 2014

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