Lex Talionis by R.S.A. Garcia (book review).
A young woman is brutally beaten and assaulted and left for dead. She is taken to the nearest clinic where she does flirt with death, only to be revived by an odd alien, much to the surprise of the attending doctor. The creature stays by her bedside throughout her recovery, which is remarkably swift. It does not communicate with the doctors, nor does it eat. The alien’s existence is one of the least mysterious aspects of the story, however. The young woman, herself, is a conundrum. She is genetically enhanced, possibly bred to be a soldier. She is highly intelligent and testing reveals she has command of some seventy languages. Her genetic code has some markers that cannot be identified. Most puzzling of all is the fact she cannot remember who she is.
In the beginning, that almost seems a blessing, especially considering what she suffered before she was found. But as her recovery progresses, finding out who she is becomes more important because people are looking for her and they’re not nice people.
‘Lex Talionis’ is an ambitious debut. The writing is tight and the plot is taut and gritty. Dark themes swirl through the pages as the action jumps forward and back, from the girl with no memory to an injured man, Michael, crawling through a bloodied spaceship, seeking to escape a terrible death. At the end of part one, these two meet and, though they are obviously connected by more than a gruesome ordeal, the circumstances remain part of the mystery for the reader. But not for the girl who finally remembers her name: Shalon Conway, the meaning of which gains weight as the story progresses. More importantly, she remembers who she is and why she was removed from her home.
Part two takes us back two months to set up Shalon’s betrayal and subsequent assault. We then follow the course of her revenge, according to the old law: lex talionis, often interpreted as ‘eye for an eye’.
The world-building in this novel is astounding. I had a clear picture of people and places from beginning to end. The plot is interesting and intriguing, meaning the story is not only attention-worthy, but has enough hooks to keep the pages turning. Author R.S.A. Garcia employs some interesting writing techniques, most of which suit the futuristic setting. Where the book failed to absolutely capture me was in the characterisation. Despite her ordeal, I never felt more than passing sympathy for Shalon. She didn’t invite it. I actually felt more sorry for both Michael and Andor, two men I should have rightfully despised. I think the reverse order of the story is responsible. When we meet Shalon, she has no idea who she is and so neither does the reader. By the time we do properly meet her, half the book is done and the dip into the past does little to flesh out her character. She’s already focused and purposeful. Her feelings for Andor feel like an inconvenience or an afterthought.
Despite this failing for me, ‘Lex Talionis’ is a remarkable book. I recommend it without hesitation for readers of darker, grittier science fiction and I look forward to seeing what else R.S.A Garcia comes up with, in this world, or another of her devise.
(pub: Dragonwell Publishing. 356 page paperback. Price: $14.24 (US), £12.55 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-94007-612-6)
check out websites: http://publishing.dragonwell.org/ and http://rsagarcia.com/