Book Review: Awakening
In a world where some humans are evolving and developing special, even incredible, abilities, the Evolved Ones – EOs – face grave uncertainty and danger: it's a game of hide and seek that ends with far too many of their kind disappearing, permanently.
In Awakening (Book 1), Rox awoke four years ago without a single memory of who she was or where she came from, and with the involuntary ability to heal. Speech and most of her higher level cognitive functions were working, but everything about herself felt unfamiliar. Plagued by insecurity and confusion, she leaves the only home she can remember and embarks on a thrilling, action-packed journey in search of her true identity.
After attending Natasha Oliver's book launch in Singapore, I bought the book with the promise of reviewing it for October. Well, I read the entire book in one afternoon. It is a fast-paced, action-packed story, which makes it easy to devour. Rox is not the usual protagonist for a science fiction adventure: she is a middle-aged woman with children (that she cannot remember), with powers she is struggling to control and an above-average ability to kick ass. Given that the spark for this story came from Oliver’s own struggle with identity, Rox feels deeply human, and easy to empathize with.
The action set pieces are laid out well with unexpected twists, and the two male leads are fleshed out thoughtfully. I was fully prepared to assume one of them is the villain but he turns out to be a surprise. The relationships among these various characters are complex and relatable. I do want more in-depth interaction between Rox and the other women in the story - depictions of solid female friendships in science fiction are still too rare, in my opinion.
I do wish more of this world that Rox inhabits was shown in the story, where there are evolved beings and not-evolved beings, but given this is the first instalment and we are following Rox’s story, it makes sense that the world feels narrow - for now. One aspect I find less appealing is that, possibly due to the dedication to action and dialogue, I do not ‘see’ much of the environments in which the characters find themselves. Nonetheless, this is nitpicking on my part; the novel, in itself, is a fun, enjoyable read, and I’m sure the second book will develop this world of the Evolved Ones even more.