I am always ripping on Robert Heinlein. He was the reason I stopped reading science-fiction for a while; he was like the gold-standard of what dudes in the 70s wanted to write: badly-devised worlds with bizarre sexual mores and inexplicable psychic powers. And everyone hails him as a genius? What's up with that?
Reading THE RAGING ONES kind of reminded me of Robert Heinlein's work. It lacks his icky sexist undertones (in fact, with two queer male characters as the main characters, it subverts that aspect of sci-fi entirely), but everything else is very much old guard science-fiction, and not in a good way. The three main characters are named Franny Bluecastle, Court Icecastle, and Mykal Kickfall (*cringes at these names*) and they live in a society that is hierarchically organized around how long you have until you die. People with shorter amounts of time to live are called "Fast Trackers" and people who have longer amounts of time to live are called "Influentials." Fast-trackers tend to burn out quickly, having lots of sex and doing lots of drugs to pass the time, and then blow all of their savings on a luxurious "Death Day," in order to die in comfort. Influentials, on the other hand, are accorded a number of privileges and look down on Fast-Trackers as being uncouth and uncivilized.
Franny is a Fast-Tracker who had planned to use her savings to go out with a bang (probably a literal one). However, something goes wrong retrieving her money, so she ends up in the frozen wastes of the streets. She expects to die that night, and is surprised when she outlives her expiration date. Mykal and Court are also Fast-Trackers, although Court at one point came from wealth. They're scrambling up money in order to go into this program (for Influentials only) that will take them to another planet, hoping to make a new start away from this ice-encrusted hell of a planet where people are imprisoned in a cast-system of their own making that's ruled entirely by death. When they find Franny in the middle of the street, they end up taking her with them.
Once they get to the aerospace department, they find out that it isn't as simple as paying the $5,000 fee and having the pedigree to match. They have to undergo a series of tests and exams designed to weed out the best of the best. Several hundred enter the competition but only about five will actually fly. It's a little bit Hunger Games, a little bit Ender's Game, a little bit Logan's Run, a little bit Stranger in a Strange Land. As I was reading, I found myself asking all these questions that were never resolved or hinted at to my satisfaction. How are death days regulated? Do you die automatically or do you have a police force, as in Logan's Run, who keep track of you to make sure that you die? Why do some people have psychic powers and why are they such weird ones? If weapons don't kill you before your death days, how have you kept the Fast-Trackers from rebelling against the Influentials, who have so much more to lose? Why is everything covered in ice, and is this population so fail about working around it? The freeze has lasted for centuries and you're telling me that in hundreds of years, nobody's thought about adapting to that, technologically?
I appreciate the originality that went into this book but man, the execution was pretty bad.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
2 out of 5 stars
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