The once-advanced people of Wiyanga’s moon, Serrone, have been abducting species—humans, powerful orcos, and relentless lizard-like creatures—to fill the dwindling ranks in their ongoing war. English teacher Michael Taylor is enslaved by the Serrone androids to serve in this brutal combat. To survive he transforms himself from teacher to storyteller, and ultimately to the legendary warrior, Shaker.
“I awoke with a mind as barren as a newborn baby. My body remained frozen and I struggled to catch my breath. There didn’t seem to be enough oxygen to fill my lungs as I gasped for air.” In just this way, Michael, SHAKER’s narrator, is reborn into darkness on an unidentified ship with dozens of others bound for an unknown destination.
Michael, an every-man, is simply drawn at first. But his determination to survive cruel service in an interminable war transforms him. His progress is set against the crumbling disarray of Serrone civilization. Author CC Prestel does a creditable job allowing Michael to change, and change, and change again. Without knowing whether the war will ever end, whether he will persevere, or whether he will ever get home, he is a creature of sheer will, steadfastly keeping himself and his comrades alive day by day.
Prestel’s storytelling builds momentum slowly and well. As the novel progresses, it grows harder to put down. The moon, its jungles, deserts, and wrecked cities, LV, Abasha, and Konkoro become more vivid over the course of the book. Prestel draws his battle scenes with care and skill. And he provides detailed descriptions of how Serrone’s advanced weapons affect human and non-human enemies in a manner just right for the genre.
Michael’s understanding of the formidable, dilapidated combot androids is especially satisfying. As the original Serrone fighting force, combots were programmed to feel loyalty to each other, to render them more effective. By the time the story takes place, they are well past their expected lifespan, scavenging parts as needed from fallen comrades. They too are evolving.
CC Prestel’s debut, speculative science-fiction novel, SHAKER, is a solid contribution to the genre. It’s an enjoyable read that hits all the right notes, while presenting a meditation on individual and social change, from the uncommon perspective of an outsider, a slave, within a dystopic society at war far too long.
~Ellen Graham for IndieReader