Don’t stand out. Blend in. Remain invisible. Those are the rules I lived by—the rules I thought would keep me alive.
I was wrong.
Wynter Reeves is a law-abiding citizen of the State, a willing conformist whose daily life is haunted by terrorism and oppression. With the constant threat of death hanging over her like a shadow, she forces herself to live by a strict set of rules, all in the hope of ensuring she is never noticed. However, on her twenty-first birthday, as she prepares to take the placement exam that will determine her future within society, she begins to show symptoms of a rare and debilitating illness—ultimately attracting the attention of the State. Taken into the custody of the feared research facility known as the DSD, her worst nightmare becomes reality.
Ripped away from the life she knew, Wynter is forced to become the test subject of the mysterious Dr. Richter. Through him, she learns the true and terrifying nature of her condition: a disease called Ultraxenopia.
This is one of the very long back list of reviews I’ve promised since earlier this year. M. A. Phipps, I am so very, very sorry it has taken me so long to get to it.
With that said, there were a few things that immediately stood out as I read through the work.
I was heavily struck by similarities between two dystopian movies I’ve seen in the last few years, which I’ll get to in more detail below.
Though this is set on Earth, it is not the same state Earth we live in for our daily lives. There is one reference to a date, which finally provides the clue about when the story is happening, though there are no hints about what brings the current world into being. With that said, suspicion of disbelief is extremely easy to do – the world building is that well done. There are a few points that I felt like I was reading though the story concept of “THX 1138” in the way the society is built up layer by layer into a mindless mass of drones shifting from one point to another. Once the story moves beyond the first layers, and begins to build the second, the second feeling of familiarity crept in. It felt like I had entered the world of “Divergent”. Don’t get me wrong, this is it’s own story with it’s own worlds, just elements of the other two stories I mentioned shone out for me very brightly.
The character development for Ultaxenopia was an interesting mix of well done and very well done. Ms. Phipps does a wonderful job using body language and non-verbal communication to make the characters come to life. The dialogue exchanges that occur have a natural feel to them, unless the characters delivering the lines are specifically described as robotic or wooden – in which case the delivered lines fit the character very well. Each of the main cast of characters has a full range of strengths, weaknesses, virtues and flaws that renders them through the narrative as solid, 3-D people. The secondary cast of characters are also well built without any of them being presented as a cardboard cutout, even if they only make a brief cameo appearance.
The pace of the action, however, is where the story struggled the most for me. The transition scenes were well done – neither rushed, or lagging. The actions scenes felt just a tad rushed. The worst culprit for bad pacing were the “down” times – the scenes between activities when the characters had a chance to shine and show us who they were among themselves. Unfortunately, short though many of those passages were – they lagged. Again, the resemblance to “THX 1138” sprang to mind sharply. It wasn’t enough to ruin the overall read, but it did make the read feel like more of a slog at times than an adventure. I’m not sure if the lagging felt is because I’ve read so extensively, or if something in the pacing was actually off.
Overall, I’d say that most light sci-fi readers, or dystopian fans would find the book enjoyable. There are some outstanding parts, and there are some that may improve with future reads. For me, however, this one doesn’t quite measure up to what I’d say is a four star read – the issues I encountered ranged across multiple areas of the story development. However, it is definitely better than average. For that, I’m giving it a 3.5 out of 5 – top marks for the character driven story, the docked stars come from the pacing and the odd reflection of two other well known works. However, that will not stop me from keeping an eye out on this new author, and seeing where she takes the series in future installments.
If you enjoyed the review, and wish to pick up a copy of Ultraxenopia, you can find it on Amazon here. If you wish for me to read and review one of your works, please fill out the simple submission form on my Offered Services page and I’ll get back to you soonest to discuss details.