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The Lifepod Review by Anu Morris

By / April 20, 2017 / no comments

The Lifepod is the first novel by Anu Morris and a science fiction story about a futuristic dystopia on earth.

The plot takes place on a future Earth after it was nearly wiped out by disasters. Earth was saved by a race of creatures called Beings who established a habitable zone called a Lifepod, now home to the few remaining humans who have survived. The new society established in the Lifepod is dived into two separate casts, Humans and Beings, with Humans occupying the lower caste.

The book is not strictly science fiction (other than a future setting), but more of a fantasy that uses a science fiction setting to explore social issues.

What I Liked

The author’s prose is, for the most part, good. There’s very little awkward sentences or ill-constructed descriptions in the book — something you can’t say about most indie fiction these days.

The characters and the events are well-described and the prose doesn’t stumble around. The pacing of the novel is brisk too — shortly after starting in, you get to the meat of the story. The novel is only a couple hundred pages at most, so it does make for a brisk read once you start.

There was a strong Indian theme to the novel: chai tea, yoga, a (basic) caste system, Indian names for characters. I did find it refreshing to read a science fiction/fantasy strongly influenced by Indian culture; it’s something you don’t often see in speculative fiction, at least in western fantasy. However, the Indian influence (besides the names and the caste system) is mostly only cosmetic to the novel — it’s NOT a story about Indian themes or culture.

The strongest part of the novel is the moral message within. While there are some science fiction/fantasy trappings, the real focus of the story is the strong didactic message found in how the characters confront the mystery and subsequent revelations about the world they live in and the relationships that tie them together. There are tie-ins with religion, good, evil, and whether the ends — evil ends even — should justify the means if those ends are for a good cause. The moral issues explored are not all subtle, but there. As such, the story is both a story and, in some ways, a moral exploration just as much as it is a science fiction tale.

What I Didn’t Like

While as a moral tale the novel does work, but as an actually interesting and gripping science fiction/fantasy tale, the book is not as successful.

In general, the world-building elements and how they worked together is thinly put together… and also confusing.

For example, the concept of including two separate races called Humans and Beings, considering ‘Human Beings’ is a general dictionary term for ‘human’, just made for pure confusion. I suppose if you look at the story as some sort of parable for these two groups representing distinct parts of what it means to be human, but the story, as I gathered during my read, is not about such.

I was unclear about the origin of the Beings, who as you find out, suddenly appeared to rescue humanity from the brink. No sort of real explanation for the why and how, just a magical appearance of another race during a time of need and humanity is saved. The whole mythology and history and general world building is shaky thin.

I suppose the idea is to focus on the events and not think too deeply about the structure of the world created, but given that Fantasy (or Science Fiction) is often defined by the fine details of the world within, it’s fair to point out this weakness.

The author throws in Humans, Beings, Supreme Beings, and at some point, even Elves into the mix. Besides the confusing naming scheme, how the world actually worked and fits together didn’t seem to mesh. The relationship between the key characters is not very well developed  — the way they act and what they do does not mesh as realistic (or I didn’t buy them as such by the end).

I have to say that the overall story at the end of the day, while offering some interesting ideas about good and evil, was a lacking (when looking at the story as science fiction t ale) and it made it hard to push through.

There’s a racial conflict and a dire mystery to solve, but the characters sort of wander around in a lackadaisical sort of way and there is never really the impression of danger or menace, even when situations are dire for the characters.

I found by the end of the story, some of the story threads seemed rushed and the conclusions reached seemed forced rather than something organic and believable.

The Final Word

Overall, Anu’s novel is a short read that’s not hard to finish in a single sitting. The writing is fairly strong and you won’t encounter any particular grammar faux pas.

Keeping in mind this is the author’s first novel and an indie novel at that, it’s not a bad read by any means if you are willing to give a first-time author a chance and not an impatient reader looking for an action packed story.

I found it commendable that the author attempts to deal with real world issues, presented through the fictional trials and tribulations of the characters.

So on one level, The Lifepod is a decently thought-provoking read that makes you question how people make choices in their own lives.

But on the other hand, looking at the book purely in terms of a science fiction novel and a story, the plot, and world building is muddled and confusing.

Taken as a moral parable about the need to work together for the good of all, regardless of politics and race, The Lifepod does make for a thoughtful and provoking read, but you’ll have to willing to push through a shaky plot, questionable world building, and overly simplistic characters to get at it.

About the author

Ben

Blog editor, admin and founder of BestFantasyBooks.comYou'll find me on the BestFantasyBook forums and spending my spare time reading fantasy books and writing lists for this site. In fact, I have no spare time -- running this site IS my spare time!

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