In a world becoming oversaturated with dystopian YA tales all vying for the hard-earned money of beleaguered parents and desperate to grab the attention of movie producers to become the Next Big Thing, it’s easy to become cynical about the genre. It’s become tired and formulaic and other than a few mainstream successes like The Hunger Games and Divergent (which quite frankly to me were tired and formulaic also, but I’m not a teen so what do I know?) there has been little new to the table of late.
Stefan Bolz’s The Fourth Sage has an interesting take on the classic dystopian theme, where people are now living in super structures, enormous self-contained high-rises controlled by a ruthless corporation. Aries Egan, a repressed fifteen year-old girl “steals” an hour each night by hacking into the mainframe and creating a camera loop, exploring the air ducts where she actually works during the day. She makes a discovery that will change her life forever and sets in motion a chain of events that force her to make a decision to either continue with her mundane everyday life or to search for the truth about her existence, her past and her future.
It would be easy to point out the obvious influences here, but I don’t think there’s a need to. Bolz has created a unique world, injecting a fresh vision into a tired genre. The world-building is of an epic scale based in a huge infrastructure which has been meticulously constructed and has an unnerving way of becoming even bigger as new areas are discovered by Aries and her friends.
The story unfolds nicely, gradually building pace and developing the main characters. Interestingly, Aries’ character is probably the slowest to develop, but as the narrative progresses it’s clear that her treatment at the hands of her “employers” is a contributing factor here, and when she does finally face her situation she becomes a far more interesting person.
Thankfully Bolz decides not to cash in on the current trend of introducing overly complicated relationships or John Green style tragic romances. This is sci-fi damn it, and while there are relationships forming as the story progresses they rightfully take a back seat to, well – not getting eviscerated by thousands of deadly androids and this is totally fine by me. There is far too much action to be enjoyed here for that sort of thing.
There are lots of surprises along the way and plenty of twists to keep the reader’s anticipation peaked. The ending builds to a quite surprising reveal which is a total game-changer and forges a solid structure for the next instalment.
I have to give a mention to the creative and editing team involved here. As a self-published work it looks and reads as professionally as anything I have seen from a major publisher and it’s a credit to the author’s hard work.