Adriana doesn’t quite fit in MicroScrep. Born, imperfectly, with heterochromia, she sees both too little and too much. Her standard-issue X-ray vision, used to scan for viruses, is flawed—she is also less susceptible to social propaganda. She tries dutifully to live right, despite her curiosity and inappropriate affection for her friend Zach. Zach, also an inquisitive soul, is too deeply fond of Adriana to suit social protocols. Zach and Adriana hope that Harmony will make them a Perfect Matched Pair, meshing their lives with the children society would provide them through the highly valued MicroScrepian surrogates. But their mild, unradical idiosyncrasies and their proximity to Zach’s soulless, powerful sister Laura is too much. All too soon they are led into greater danger than they could have ever imagined.
Character relationships and their place in a radically dystopic society drive Boshra Rasti’s SURROGATE COLONY. Rasti’s choice to let Adriana and Zach tell the story offers an intimacy that effectively counterpoints the controlled MicroScrepian world. Adriana and Zach speak to readers in their innocent, warm-hearted voices from orderly, frightening, deceitful MicroScrep. The secondary characters are also compelling. While the motivation for Laura’s violent hostility is somewhat murky, she is delightfully and relentlessly evil. And Adriana’s mother deserves a special callout; her buoyant enthusiasm for the social order provides a subtle comic edge that enriches the story.
Dystopian novels often double as cautionary tales in which an idea meant to save society has gone too far. Sometimes a well-intentioned idea, drifting to a worst logical conclusion leads to environmental devastation; often, as in SURROGATE COLONY, the well-intentioned idea has led to gravely overbalanced social control and a loss of individualism. In MicroScrepian history, the virus led to death and loss, which led to efforts to ensure a healthy population and to an entrenched fear of viral particles. Fear of viral particles has led to engrained rules against uncontrolled human contact. There are echoes here of Johnson and Nolan’s 1967 novel Logan’s Run, as well as Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale. In an additional brutal irony, MicroScrep has replaced physical degradation by means of a virus with physical degradation by human design.
Poet and short-story writer Boshra Rasti’s SURROGATE COLONY is a solid first novel with an intriguing pandemic-related premise that fleshes out an alternate reality. It is also a sensitively drawn love story in a world where love beyond social strictures is no longer safe.
~Ellen Graham for IndieReader