In a future where climate change has the human race on the brink of extinction, energy control officer Lucas Seraph is deployed to reclaim resources—even if it means dooming millions to death in the process. During one of his missions he crosses paths with Shakti, the “vessel” whose biologically engineered body could hold the secret to humanity’s future. When the truth behind the governmental power of the Hegemony begins to unravel, Lucas must decide whether he will strike out against the bloody empire that he has helped to create. Geographically, CHAWLGIRL RISING is centered around the Hegemony headquarters in the mountains of Nepal. The characters are a diverse mix of Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Nepalese ethnicities. Aghori sadhus (a type of holy person that worships death) drag corpses away for final rites. Shakti calls upon her kundalini (spiritual energy) when she faces peril. Characters speak in “the bubbly rhythm of Indian English”. The inclusion of Indian culture, Hindu religious beliefs, and Hindi slang add a lot of flavor to T.K. Young’s story.
The world of CHAWLGIRL RISING is also delectably gruesome. Cannibals and raiders roam the streets, looking for their next targets. Implants (the human-machine hybrids that run the Hegemony’s computer systems) live sickly lives, with their machine parts oozing pus and their bodies racked by sores and addiction. Children are taken from their families and turned into experiments. Orphans fight to the death over canned goods. Young has created a world that is not only richly detailed, but seeped in misery and strife. This novel is more than just world-building, though as the story is filled with conflict. Lucas must leave the safety of the Hegemony to pursue a path that could lead to humanity’s salvation. Shakti undergoes a crisis of identity and questions whether the voices she hears are a sign of insanity or of a higher calling. Lucas’s wife, Julianne, must choose between her husband and her unwavering loyalty to the Hegemony. The stakes of CHAWLGIRL RISING’s central conflict (the survival of the human species) are high, but the smaller, more personal stakes that Young has created for each character are just as captivating.
T.K. Young’s CHAWLGIRL RISING is an exemplary model of apocalyptic science fiction with a unique setting, writing that is suitably gruesomely morose and gritty, powerful use internal and external conflict and a plot that is sharply organized and enticing.
~Stephani Hren for IndieReader