Aiden James & Fiona Fraser, Toxicity, 2016
A joint effort by Aiden James and Fiona Fraser, Toxicity focuses on a dystopian America which has fallen under the strict rule of Islam. Water-shortages, strict rules and 19th century slaver-like behaviour is the norm, with citizens banned from crossing states.
The story takes place across most of middle-America, and that was one slight issue I had. Not the location as such, but, to someone with limited knowledge of each state’s position and neighbours (being British), it came across at times as confusing. With characters talking about going to this state, or that state, without a map at the beginning or having to search for a real map yourself, it can be hard to follow which state is where. Another aspect which was somewhat hard to follow, at least initially, was the characters. Setting the plot across multiple journeys is a fascinating idea, and was executed successfully, however each journey we follow (from the survivors trying to escape, the leaders trying to hunt them down and the youngest son of the Caliph, Abdul-Bari, setting off on his own journey to discover the truth) introduces us to a wide variety of characters, and at times it got a little muddled remembering who was with whom.
And sometimes characters would say things which seemed out-of-place, such as the use of the phrase ‘flipping the bird’, or mentioning wars and other events that have happened prior to the 21st century struck me as unusual (in a world without mobile phones and, seemingly, an accurate historical education system, references of those kinds didn’t come across as totally believeable).
That aside, though, Toxicity was a well-paced novel, with a frighteningly real basis for its idea. The characters, once settled in to who was who, are different enough to keep them all interesting (and with them each going through different journeys to reach the same goal it keeps even those characters which seem similar or bland on an interesting journey). The front design is brilliant, with the world polluted inside a blood-coloured tear-drop, and the writing style is consistently solid throughout. James and Fraser detail events to an easily understandable level which accurately painted a picture of their past and present, to allow the reader knowledge of both.
Having several groups all search for the same goal, too, adds wonders to the story’s depth. It’s not simply one group out for survival, we follow three (two survival groups and Abdul-Bari’s own journey), with one thing on their minds: freedom. A well-paced ad enjoyable novel, Toxicity is a slightly unusual addition to the post-apocalyptic world novels, but it certainly doesn’t feel out-of-place.
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*Buy it on Amazon here*
*Want to read more from Aiden James? Visit his website here*