ASO by Lindsey Mackie

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ASO by Lindsey Mackie

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Price
Reviewed by Ruth Price
Summary: In 2050, parts of the British Isles have been reborn as ASO, a society where citizens live in age-related regions. Rachel Develin is an important and committed official of this regime, until a series of seemingly disconnected incidents leads her to question her beliefs. This imaginative and original sci-fi thriller suffers from the weight of its plot, obscure language, a surfeit of characters and a lack of thorough editing.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 344 Date: November 2008
Publisher: Matador
ISBN: 978-1906510459

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Rachel Develin is a prominent ASO official, a Fidelis. Having suffered the loss of her parents while still a teenager (due to apparent terrorism which racked the British Isles with disease) she has fervently supported a new, fairer society, which divides its citizens into age-related regions. When she visits her daughter, Bera, reared by experts in a part of ASO devoted to childcare, an encounter with a charismatic 80-year-old escapee from the Senior region, Olim, sets in motion a series of events that will change her life forever.

In Lindsey Mackie's debut novel, she demonstrates an impressive depth of vision and a keen imagination. From the first chapter, readers are introduced to a raft of terms which describe this post-Apocalyptic Britain – Joy-time, orph, Matership, locomoter, conning towers, cardette, visimessage and many more.

However, herein lies one of the novel's first problems – there is no glossary. Having read the entire book, I still don't know what is meant by the acronym ASO (though it finally dawned on me while writing this review that is probably a tri-part name denoting Abovo, Suris and Olim, the 3 age-related regions). Most terms I understood by context, but it was a little frustrating. Other words used seemed redundant or contrived – why use refresher for refectory or locomoter for train? I presume that this new vocabulary is used to demonstrate the new ways of ASO society and its break with the old, as well as help create this fantasy world.

As someone with an interest in etymology and linguistic theories, I found some of this vocabulary unconvincing and unnecessary. As someone from Wales, I found it hard to believe that Cymru has become Abovo and is merely used as a nursery for ASO's children. Where are the Welsh? Where is the Welsh language and place-names? The Welsh have been around a long time – what could have persuaded them to up-sticks and move in a single generation? In a 303 page novel, Mackie has not provided me with a convincing back-story about the creation of this new society, which permitted me to find plausible the development of so many new attitudes, ways of living and new vocabulary. I wanted to know more about ASO's charismatic leader, Magnamater Beatrice and her predecessor, social architect Magnamater Olivia, and I wanted more details about how the historical and sociological changes had come about, and how the populace had come to readily accept these changes, in order to convince me to fall into this fantasy.

Mackie is capable of producing fully-rounded characters – Rachel is a convincing, likeable and angst-ridden heroine; her daughter Bera leaps off the page; Rachel's friend and colleague Josie is drawn vibrantly within only a few paragraphs. However, ASO is packed with so many similar characters - sadly for the reader, it can be hard at times to differentiate between them.

Mackie is also able to produce vivid images – such as one elderly character buying his wife a new feather boa every year, summing up flirty fun and frivolity. Unfortunately, a sentence like Andrew slid his palms across the table like a newborn foal splaying his hooves creates an image in my mind that is probably not what the author intended.

Many of these problems could have been ironed out with professional editing and thorough proof-reading. Mackie has the imagination to create a fantasy world, but she needs to underpin it with more authority, and ensure the reader is not distracted by grammatical errors, plot holes and narrative insufficiently drawn to be convincing. As the novel stands at present, I feel it has more potential as a radio play or short TV drama, if Mackie is able to discipline her enthusiastic imagination in order to create a society as convincingly realised as those in novels like Brave New World, 1984 and The Handmaid's Tale.

ASO was kindly sent to Bookbag for review by its author. It comes packaged with a CD. Three of the songs on the CD are Magnamater Olivia's anthems of birth, marriage (unification) and death, intended to make all music from the past redundant.

For further reading on post-Apocalyptic worlds, Bookbag's reviewer was impressed with the warmth and lyricism of The Pesthouse by Jim Crace. Although written for children, Cybernation by Erica Blaney shares many of the same themes as ASO and Bookbag found it an absorbing read.

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