I read Peterfreund's Rampant previously and enjoyed that book. I was interested to see what she would write in a sci-fi setting. Unfortunately while this book is beautifully written, it is incredibly slow and not much happens throughout the book. This is supposed to be a sort of sci-fi telling of Persuasion.
This story is about an eighteen year old girl named Elliot who is struggling to run her father's farm. She is part of a society of people called Luddites who are against technology. When a tech-based apocalyptic event happens they end up surviving a catastrophe and becoming the wealthy part of society. When younger she was friends with a Post named Kai, who left to find his fortune elsewhere.
One part of this book I really did enjoy was the chapters that consisted of letters Elliot and Kai had written to each other when they were younger. About every third or fourth chapter consisted of these letters. They were entertaining to read and gave an excellent glimpse into this society.
The world building in this book is excellent. You have whole society based on the fact that because of technological tampering part of the world was Reduced, or basically unable to function as normal human beings. Then there are the Posts, these are people born to Reduced parents who are able to function as normal humans. Lastly there are the Luddites, who have basically ruled society since the Reduction. It's a very interesting world and discusses both the positives and negatives of genetic enhancement.
Elliot is a hard character to love. She's run a tough road even with her high social status. Throughout the book her viewpoint sounds more like that of a worn out forty year old than that of an eighteen year. To be honest reading about her made me feel tired and sad. She has taken on so much responsibility, suffers so much, and is constantly abused for it. She is tired, she is hopeless, and she is struggling to help the Posts on her farm survive.
Kai is also a hard character to love. He took off and left Elliot behind to find a fortune of his own. He blames her for staying on the farm even knowing that many Posts would suffer if she were to leave her responsibilities behind. He is mean, disrespectful, and spiteful to Elliot throughout most of the book. It is only through their letters to each other that you get a glimpse into the friendship Kai and Elliot once had.
This book reads more like a Southern Plantation romance than a sci-fi novel. The majority of the book is about Elliot's struggles to run the North farm in light of her father's abuse and horrible decision making. It is also about Elliot and Kai trying to come to peace with what they have become over their time apart. Additionally it is also about the Posts on the farm and the lives they are trying to have while working in almost slave-like conditions.
Very little actually happens in this book. Elliot whines about her responsibilities and moons over Kai. Kai avoids and insults Elliot. As a reader we read mostly about day to day how the North farm is run and the problems they encounter. It is beautifully written, but the pace is incredibly slow.
I did enjoy the tidbits we are feed about the history of this world and about the genetic modifications that are starting to happen again. Peterfreund doesn't go into great detail on these topics but they are there and add some interest to the book. I did really enjoy the last couple chapters of the book, things pick up the pace and are much more intriguing.
Overall an okay read. There are a lot of interesting ideas presented in this novels that I liked. Unfortunately I had trouble engaging with the characters, and found our heroine Elliot to be so downtrodden that she was incredibly depressing to read about. While the book has an interesting premise, not much happens. Things move very slowly and in the end it reads more like a book about Southern Plantations and slavery than a sci-fi novel. At this point I am unsure whether or not I will read the next book in this series.