Thursday, July 27, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

The Prey of Gods is easily one of the more unique books I've read this year. It's also extremely good - featuring a diverse cast of characters - Our POVs include: A Robot, a Girl learning to become a demigod, an angry ravenous older Demigod, a Gay teen with mind control abilities, a pop artist who secretly has MS and a trans politician who'd rather be a pop artist.  The story features demigods, an ancient mythology and multiple robots/AIs with minds of their own, as well as genetic engineering on the side.  By all rights, this combination SHOULDN'T work.  But for the most part, it really really does.

Long Review continues after the Jump:

------------------------------Plot Summary------------------------------
The Prey of Gods takes place in a near future version of South Africa, where one company specializes in genetic engineering and smartphones have been replaced mainly by small personally-owned AI-controlled robots. But this is also a world with a secret past - where Human Beings hold within the powers of demigods, with their powers based upon various animal spirits.  Only a few humans manifest this power - and this power can vary in strength based upon the belief....or terror felt by others.  And in this new world, a new drug is sweeping through the country, which seems to unlock this potential in a few wielders...

The story is told from 6 points of view:
Sydney, our main antagonist, is a centuries old demigod, who, threatened by the emergence of a new demigod with the same powers, takes it upon herself to emerge from hiding as a nail salon artist and instead through machinations and plots cause mass terror (and then divine belief) in the populace, which she can feed upon to become all powerful;
Nomvula, a young girl, discovers she has wings she can call out and possibly incredible power as a demigod, but fears the damage she has caused with this power and struggles to decide whether she should go with or oppose Sydney's plans;
Muzi, a young gay man who discovers he has the power of mind control when he accidentally causes his lover (who possesses the power of intelligence) to forget a prior day, and who wants to do good and honor his family, but also to simply be with his lover;
Riya, a pop star who secretly suffers with MS, but who discovers through the drug that she has the power to heal, and who discovers a calling to try and help others;
Stoker, a politican who seeks the highest office in South Africa, but really just wants to be a pop star in Riya's a woman, but also has a potentially dangerous mother who might have the power to stop him;
and Clever, Muzi's AI robot companion who gains sentience and wants to change the world by spreading belief in Nomvula's power.

Their actions will either destroy the modern world.....or save it.

I want to stress this again: for the most part, this story is really good.  The characters are generally all really well developed and solid and all of them come together fairly quickly, so you're not left with a situation where you're simply waiting for things to happen in one POV, things move at a nice quick pace.

And the book's plot wraps together incredibly nicely - again, this is a book with a climax that features robots, demigods, and genetically engineered beasts and yet none of it seems cheesy or overblown.  The stakes are high, but mostly every character is deeply involved, and the ending is well deserved on everyone's part.  The ending is deeply satisfying and in theory could lend to a sequel, but I'm pretty sure this is meant to be a stand alone, and it works incredibly well as such.

If I have a mild complaint about this book, it's that there's a plotline early on where part of the Villain's plot is tampering with the genetic engineering authorized by another character, and at least on my read it didn't seem to actually go anywhere (other events and parts of the Villain's plan take firm priority).  Similarly, the god drug isn't really ever explained- it just is there.  These are minor quibbles - again, these things do not bog down the story at all, but they bothered me a tiny bit enough to detract from a perfect score.

That said, incredibly recommended.

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