I recently had the pleasure of reading the novel Domechild by Shiv Ramdas. A quick reading of the blurb would lead you to believe that you were going to read another dystopian science fiction novel, in which machines rule over mankind, which has become impotent and degenerate. The first pages reinforce this belief, and I had almost consigned it to that overused trope. But I read on, and then everything changed. It quickly became apparent that Domechild was not about machine-human relations in a dystopian future. The future Ramdas describes in the novel is certainly, by all definitions, dystopian, but it is fundamentally about human relations with each other.
After disabusing myself of the notion that Domechild was mostly about humans and machines (though there are certainly well-used elements of that), I began thinking of it more as social networks gone completely out of control, and Ramdas’ portrayal of life in the City neatly captured the paradox of hyper-connectivity’s close relationship with loneliness and isolation. Just when I had a fix on where I thought Ramdas was going with his book, he threw me a curveball and cast me into a whole other world, where more basic issues of what it means to be human and what it means to be decent came to the forefront. We left behind the world of the city and its titular dome and finally began to learn the truth – or at least some of it. While I could guess at a few elements of the truth through careful hints dropped by Ramdas throughout, I was still surprised and impressed by the complex plot unfolding before my eyes. Alas, this novel ends rather abruptly, and there had better be a sequel coming, because I need to find out what happens next!
Ramdas’ writing style is overall very smooth and often very witty, though I think another round or two of copy-editing would have helped some of the bumpy typos and grammar errors that disrupted the flow, more often than I would have liked. Through his excellent writing, Ramdad was able to craft not only a fascinating world, setting, and plot, but also memorable characters, each with their own unique voice, from Theo to Marcus to Colby and his squad to Father to Ollie to June and even to Vail and the Deacon. His characters are very well-developed and believable, and I was drawn in enough to care deeply about their fates.
My one complaint with Ramdas’ characterization is that of his main character and audience pull, Albert. Albert starts off questioning the system of the City, but is naturally too afraid to do anything about it, which sets the tone for the rest of the novel expertly and gets the plot moving quickly, rather than forcing the reader to wait around for him to develop. However, I am not sure Albert develops naturally either as a person or as a voice; he seems like a hollow vessel for the reader, but I am not sure it works entirely well in the novel. He seems to swing wildly from meekness to confidence, with no real way to tell which way he would go, and seems to gain everyone’s confidence awfully fast for someone they had just met. Something about him seemed off to me, and I found that he was actually the one character I was not particularly concerned for (though he was much more sympathetic at the start of the book than the end). Still, Albert’s flaws were not nearly enough to detract from the graceful prose, excellent characters, well-developed settings, and perfectly-paced plot of the rest of the novel, which I would recommend to anyone! So get out there and buy it from somewhere, like here on Amazon. Get reading!
Ta-ta for now!