This dystopian novel does not make for easy reading because it portrays such a horrible world for so many of its inhabitants.
Melissa Ferguson's The Shining Wall.
This dystopian novel does not make for easy reading. That is not because it is not well written – to the contrary, this novel is executed with skill and flair – but because it portrays such a horrible world for so many of its inhabitants.
To conjure this world, Melissa Ferguson extrapolates plausible outcomes from a number of current trends. Climate change has wreaked havoc. Medical science has advanced to the stage where people can live long and healthy lives, but at the expense of fertility. Artificial intelligence is widely used, including for medical diagnosis and security management. Computer science has advanced to the stage where brain implants allow instant person-to-person communication and many other mental and physical enhancements. Implanted wrist chips enforce a cashless society. Communication tablets are ubiquitous. Manufactured food is the norm for most people.
There is an almost insurmountable gap between the wealthy and the rest of the population. The rich people, who live in City 1, are referred to as the Sapiens. They have to protect themselves and their habitat by a ‘shining wall’. This is policed by armed security guards largely composed of Neandertals – brought back to life by cloning – and robots.
Outside the wall are the slums referred to as the ‘Demi-Settlements’. The ‘demis’ survive on what they can scavenge or trade. Paid employment is almost non-existent and many demis have little choice but to resort to smuggling or prostitution. The Sapiens’ government provides limited facilities to the demis by way of manufactured food, rations of water and recycling facilities. Rebellious groups who despise the subservience of the demis manage to survive in remote and desolate locations.
This dismal world is described through the eyes of a courageous young woman, Alida, and her friend, Shuqba, a Neandertal woman who, in spite of her training, turns out to be a decent person.
Ferguson describes the many adventures and near-death experiences of Alida and Shuqba, and in the process unveils more and more about their world. These adventures make for exciting reading, although their many narrow escapes from disaster stretch credibility.
In telling this story Ferguson makes the point that different races, who do not look like each other and do not share a common background, can still get on well with each other. She further shows the gap between great wealth and utter poverty cannot be maintained without undue force and is not sustainable. But despite a welcome whiff of optimism at the end, one is still left with a stark reminder of the direction the world could be headed.
3 ½ stars ★★★☆
The Shining Wall
By Melissa Ferguson
Published by Transit Lounge Publishing
Format: ISBN: 978-1-925760-18-7
Publication Date: 1 April 2019
Categories: Fiction, New and Recent