The Colony, by RMGilmour
Lydia is a broken woman weighed down by grief and trauma, both mentally and physically. Then one day she starts hearing a voice in her head claiming to be a person called Jordan from another plane of existence. At first she dismisses it, but then it won’t go away and she feels strangely drawn to it, his presence making her feel whole again. After a while Jordan explains to Lydia that he can bring her to him, and before she knows it she’s on a strange world outside a walled city she can’t enter.
And she’s not the only one there; there’s a whole colony of people in fact, made up of people from different worlds and not all of them came willingly. But why are they there, why do they need to protect themselves at night, and will Lydia ever find Jordan so they can be together at last?
Colony is billed as a sci-fi romance, so it should come as no surprise that there is a substantial amount of angst and longing within its pages. If you’re not into that kind of thing, however, there’s still plenty of sci-fi ideas and action to see you through.
Lydia initially meets a man called Grid, a human colonist who shows her (and us) around the colony. It’s a good introduction to the world and Grid himself is a very interesting and conflicted character. Lydia’s relationship with Grid, a who’s been there quite a while, is a fairly odd one though (friends with cuddles I guess you could call it), and she sends him some very mixed signals throughout the book.
Lydia herself is an interesting character. Initially self-conscious about her appearance and how other people perceive her, she gains in mental strength as the story progresses as she is accepted and finds her place in the world. When there is nowhere to hide from yours and others’ feelings, the only way is forward.
The two other races (or at least alternative humans) are the Heart and the Rathe. The Heart are a Spartan-type warrior race, who constantly battle and train against one-another for status. This is exemplified the character Lena, who helps Lydia out and gives her inner strength. The other main Heart character is Haize, who is regarded in a strange light by her peers because she is a medic.
The Rathe are centuries ahead of Earth in developing advanced technology but didn’t pursue it as they saw the dangers, preferring to do things like creating food the old-fashioned way. Aleric, the main Rathe character, acts as Lydia’s guide and a go-between with her and the characters she meets from the city.
Colony is quite a long book and I feel it could have been made better with some trimming down. The first 15% or so of the book is made up of Lydia reflecting on her trauma and getting to know Jordan. While this is important for character development (Lydia is isolated by her own choice and about to be sectioned), there does seem quite a lot of repetition in this early section as they are basically either in her house or by the river.
Later on in the book there is a couple of chapters devoted to the warrior race the Heart and their battle training methods, which Lydia then has a go at. The problem with this is that whilst Lydia is gaining mental strength I didn’t think there was really a huge need for a Katniss-style (and / or whatever the main character in Divergent was called) montage section, especially as is isn’t really paid off later. I felt this could have been cut, or at least reduced. The story also pulls the ‘character thinks someone is dead but they’re not quite’ card more than once, and occasionally falls into the Lost method of storytelling by withholding things from the reader because it’s not time to know it yet. The characters do explain why certain information isn’t told, but it rang slightly hollow.
That said, there are some very exciting scenes in the story (the bait and chase scene springs to mind) and the third act races along at a pace, so much that I finished the last quarter of the book in one sitting. There are also quite a few plot twists and moments of revelation along the way which I enjoyed greatly (and won’t spoil here). The best twists in fiction are ones that are there in plain sight and these were handled very deftly I thought. There are also lots of good ideas on how the colony functions and the hidden price they all have to pay.
Colony is told in a first person perspective (well, 99% of it is anyway). I have to admit it’s not my personal favourite way of storytelling as although it adds a very personal touch, it tends to limit the scope and breadth of the narrative. We don’t really find out much about the city and its inhabitants, for example, apart from that they are given everything they need from a central computer. How they live day to day and why a lot of them seem so empty that they need to reach out to other worlds is left to our imagination. Still, this is just my personal choice and has no reflection on the final rating.
I enjoyed The Colony and I’d recommend it to science fiction fans looking for something a bit different, or to romance readers wanting a bit of a change of scene.
Rating: 4 / 5
Disclaimer and disclosure. This book was bought by me from Amazon.co.uk. All opinions are my own, and I am receiving no payment for the review, either by financial or review-swap means.