Sons of the Crystal Mind, by Andrew Wallace
Sons of the Crystal Mind by Andrew Wallace in the first in a series of SF novels, entitled Diamond Roads. Sons of the Crystal Mind introduces us to our heroine, Charity Freestone - and what a heroine she is!
Set in a distant future, Crystal Mind takes place in Centria, a vast, complex and technologically advanced world that exists underground. Centria is, first and foremost, a city of commerce - a capitalist capital. Technology has advanced to such a degree that anything can be created - giffed - from the surrounding environment. However, unlike the replicator tech of Star Trek, in Crystal Mind the fact that humanity can seemingly have anything it wants has created a less than ideal world.
Charity Freestone is the daughter of one of the most important families in Diamond City, whose status is set on the fact that they own one of the largest industries. Her sister, Ursula, is the people's princess and is due to marry the son of a rival company. However, when Charity and Ursula's parents mysteriously disappear, both sisters are set on a course that will change their lives forever...
One of the most intriguing aspects of this novel is the relationship between Charity and Ursula, which is a complex mixture of rivalry, affection... and a lot more which is spoilery, and so I won’t mention it. Wallace isn't afraid to delve into the difficulties such feelings create between the two women, and this makes for a refreshing read in what can be, at times, an overwhelmingly male genre.
Charity herself is something of an anti-hero, and at times her choices are firmly within the moral gray zone. This is particularly apparent as the mystery of her parents' disappearance begins to unfold, and we learn more about the 'blanks', a group of enslaved people who are beginning to rise up and fight for themselves. Though, in typical Wallace fashion, even this emancipation is not straight forward. I can't really say more on this either without spoiling to the story, but the twists come thick and fast, making this a novel you'll want to keep reading.
Written in first person present, it would be easy to compare Crystal Minds to other similarly styled works, especially YA SF, given the young female protagonist. However, while Charity may be cut from the same clothe as Katniss, for example, she is something entirely different. This is in part due to Wallace's attention to detail in terms of character, with both Charity and Ursula being clear products of the world in which they exist, and also due to the more violent and adult themes. While I wouldn't say this book isn't for teenage readers (and of course, not all YA readers are teenagers!), there are definitely some triggering moments, and as such readers should be aware they may find some scenes distressing.
Sons of the Crystal Mind is Wallace's first full-length novel, though not his first experience of writing. Wallace has also written for television and radio, and his confidence shows through in this text. If you like your SF hard and your women tough, this is definitely a book you'll enjoy! You can buy it on Amazon, or receive a free copy by signing up to Wallace's newsletter, here. Andrew is also on Twitter, @AndrewWallaceDR , and Goodreads.