Eyes on the Blue Star by Dewi Hargreaves
While each chapter moves between new countries such as Bostonia, the Republic of Albany, and the Pennsylvanian Provisional Military Government, the scope of this “new world” never loses you as a reader. The characters are all trying to navigate this wild landscape as cities and countries compete for land and protection from encroaching Swampers (mutant variations of humans, or mythical monsters?). This world is on the brink of war, ostensibly to “save” the citizens of Pennsylvania from the dictatorship of the Governor-General, but more so to prove which country is the true successor to the legendary Washington Empire, which once held people in unity.
The cast of characters includes a mercenary soldier, tired of merely surviving, a rebel Pennsylvanian, determined to free her fellow citizens even if that means inciting riots first, political leaders determined to grab hold of power, and refugees and veterans looking for some measure of quiet. There is often, as good dystopian fiction so brilliantly shows, more to be feared in humans than any monster.
Hargreaves’ has previously focused on short stories and this is evident from the tightness of each chapter, all of which feel like they could be a story in and of themselves. It then feels like a bonus when we meet certain characters again, later on their journey. He plays with ideas of cultural legacy and memory, which is fascinating to think of in a future so distant the actual truths of the United States have been mythologised. While this novel is a really gripping read, it is also more. It makes you question the cultures of our present and what we have decided is worth fighting for.