Thursday, March 09, 2023

Frontier by Grace Curtis: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

Frontier by Grace Curtis

Frontier is set in the 29th century Earth. It’s a dry, desolate place that most humanity abandoned several centuries ago to conquer the space. Only a small fraction remained, a religious sect called Gaians who believe in the divinity of goddess Earth. No technology newer than 21st century (for some reason) is allowed and even the talk of space is sin.

Noelle, a scientist, wants to visit earth, the first time in three centuries, for humanitarian and other ideological reasons. With her as a security is Kei, a former army captain who has resigned from her post after a massacre. A romance forms between the women during the six-month travel through space. When they finally reach Earth, everything goes wrong. That’s where the book begins.

Stranger finds herself in a frontier town. She has no idea where she is, but she needs to find someone. For that she needs a communicator. But in the technology averse world, those don’t exist. So she travels, rather randomly, towards the only city where one might exist. On her way, she encounters people who either help her or try to kill her. She changes from Stranger to Courier to Darling, with no name of her own that she would introduce herself with, and no clear indication who she’s looking for, other than her love.

The book consists of encounters that are almost short stories from various points of view. Reader gets a good idea of what the life on Earth, or at least in that small part of it, is like. Some encounters remain one-off, some people appear again just when they’re needed. We don’t get the backstory of the main character until after the half-point, and only then does she get a name and we learn who she’s looking for.

This was a good story, easy to read and interesting. The atmosphere was a bit gloomy, and the main character remained distant, even in the chapters told from her point of view, thanks to the odd decision to not name her or give her any backstory until after the half-pointodd, because the MC really didn’t seem poetic enough to think of herself in terms other than her name. From then on, the book came to life in a whole new way, and Kei became a real person.

The world was interesting, a good combination of space travel and dystopian. But I wasn’t entirely convinced of the logic of the life on Earth. There was no new technology, and everyone seemed to be living on what they grew or scavenged, but there was petrol for 21st century carsstill in use several centuries laterand fabrics for clothes, for example. Only printed books existed, even though people didn’t leave earth until the 24th centurythough it was interesting to think that Alexander Dumas and Jane Austen were still read a thousand years after their books were first published. And in three centuries, no one had rebelled and started creating technology that would make life better for everyone. An outsider was needed to save them from the ill-effects of their religion.

I didn’t feel the romance between Kei and Noelle either. They were an uneven pair, and it seemed Noelle only spent time with Kei because there were no other options. For her part, Kei’s devotion to Noelle fit her single-minded character, but not so much that it made a believable character motivation. There was the massacre she felt guilty about; saving her crew to atone herself would’ve been a much stronger reason. Now it went completely unused other than in her reluctance to kill people.

Despite my misgivings, I enjoyed the book. For a debut, it was excellent. It’s a stand-alone with a satisfying ending, but I wouldn’t mind reading more about Kei.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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