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Scylla and Charybdis by Lindsey Duncan

Scylla and Charybdis by Lindsey Duncan
Book Name: Scylla and Charybdis
Author: Lindsey Duncan
Publisher(s): Kristell Ink
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Release Date: April 15, 2018

We’re shot into the future. Life has taken an unexpected turn of events. Our space explorations have not gone as planned. As the human race has spread beyond Earth, we’ve caught the attention of an alien race, the Derithe, who have engineered a disease specifically to target males on colonised planets. Faced with the destruction of civilisation, a group of women break away with a ship of resources to enable them to build a new life and head further than ever. Rather than sit and watch the chaos form around them, they take their chances and head off to start a colony of their own.

Over a century later, the women of Themiscyra have built a large, independent satellite. There are no men, reducing the exposure of the women to Y-Poisoning. The women have built onto the colony ship they first fled with, made scientific break-throughs that allows them to prolong life, and become fully self-sustainable. Earth and its colonies have fallen into the realms of history under the assumption that it was destroyed. Or so that’s what the leaders of Themiscyra teach.

The protagonist, Anaea, is assigned to a mission searching a spacecraft, The White Hound, which has neared Themiscyra, exiting the hyperspace corridor that’s located nearby. She’s sent with a small salvage team to search the drifting ship that doesn’t respond to their calls. Crafts like these have entered the space around Themiscyra before so the search is routine but not common. Aboard, the group find the bodies of the crew, all lifeless. As an intern, this is her first salvage mission and the first time Anaea has seen a male. She knows that a few others have come over the decades and been taken from ships that have entered Themiscyra’s space to a restricted, isolated compound.

Concerned that the men could be carriers of Y-Poisoning, the crew continue cautiously, searching every inch of the ship for survivors or resources. Finally, Anaea comes upon a virtual reality tube, with someone trapped inside. He falls out, asking questions, and thus the chain of events begins that threatens to burst the bubble of protection surrounding Themiscyra.

Still anxious that the contagion could pose a threat, the man is rushed away, but not before Anaea’s curiosity is piqued. She yearns to learn more and plots a way to get closer to the man, hoping she can have her own questions answered. In the brief time she spends with Gwydion, she learns that there has been no case of Y-Poisoning in decades. Humanity has restored itself and recovered from the fall.

As Anaea has not yet found her calling upon Themiscyra, continuing to cycle through the internship programme and not yet settling on a career, she’s left wondering what else there could be. It’s the great unknown outside the satellite that draws her to Gwydion. Her attachment to him and her desire to learn more about the outside universe causes her to risk everything she knows and escape with Gwydion from the station. Anaea sacrifices her relationship with her best friend, and ex-lover, to find truth. She and Gwydion flee.

Unsure what to expect, Anaea finds herself having to catch up to the advances in technology the colonies have made as they reach their destination. She’s forced to learn about societal structures. She’s introduced to the two empires that have risen from the ashes, and the many factions under them. She discovers how the power lies between men and women; how comitissas and baronissas, matriarchs and warlords rule and guide the communities.

To make her turmoil worse, she fights with her feelings for Gwydion. His religion and prior attachments to another causes blocks for their relationship to develop. She leaves Gwydion behind to find her place in the universe alone and finds herself in trouble.

While Anaea comes to understand that the leaders of Themiscyra have kept them shrouded in secrecy, the politics of this new-found life pose a threat. She faces a battle to hide her true identity and conceal the truth about where she’s come from.

So, where do Scylla and Charybdis come into it? Taken from Greek mythology, the phrase being “between Scylla and Charybdis” basically means being caught between two evils. Anaea finds herself with two options; neither of which look particularly appealing and it’s not a decision she necessarily wants to make. She must take another look at who she is and what lengths she’ll go to in finding out. Ultimately, Anaea has been on a quest to find a home; somewhere she truly feels she belongs. Feeling disjointed on Themiscyra, have her actions forced the satellite onto a course that will only make matters worse for those who live there?

Duncan has created Themiscyra and its new way of living, piquing my interest and leaving me wanting more. We’re given a glimpse into this exciting environment, a life where women have become solely self-sufficient, developing artificial environments to assist production, procreating, and enforcing their own laws in the ways they’ve developed. We’re not given much background on the development of the satellite, but it doesn’t hamper the progression of the story. The pace of the book ebbs and flows nicely, picking up pace where appropriate and increasing the drama. We feel for Anaea, who experiences the being lost in space in another sense; not physically lost as such, but emotionally detached from her unfamiliar surroundings, seeking the few friendly faces she can find. Scylla and Charybdis shows an exciting concept of life in space, post-colonisation which addresses many themes including love, friendship, power, and religion. The book will be released by Grimbold Books on April 15th.

Advance copy received from the publisher.


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