Book Review: The Culling (The Slave Girl Chronicles #1), JC Andrijeski (2014)

February 21st, 2014 12:14 pm by Kelly Garbato

A dystopian alien abduction story – WITH DINOSAURS!

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Member Giveaway program. Also, vague spoilers in the last few paragraphs.)

Nineteen-year-old Jet Tetsuo is a skag. Along with thousands of other human refugees, Jet spends most of her time underground, eking out the barest existence beneath the ruins of what once was Vancouver. It’s this, or risk capture by the Nirreth: a race of blue, bipedal, lizard-like aliens that invaded Earth several generations before. Rumor has it that the Nirreth vivisect humans, keep them as slaves, and even cook and eat them. To be picked up by a Nirreth culling ship means certain death. Or at least that’s the word in the skag pits that Jet calls home.

A fierce fighter who’s skilled with the blade, Jet saves most of her worries for her younger brother, Biggs, who’s been spending a dangerous amount of time hanging around the rebel fighters. It’s him she’s thinking of when, out on a trading errand overworld, she’s spotted and captured by a Nirreth culling ship. In time, she learns that she’s a “special commission”: the ship’s captain, Eamon Richter, former leader of the resistance in Vancouver, abducted Jet for sale to the Nirreth High Command for the Pacific Region – “The Royals” for short. Like many humans kidnapped to the Green Zones (park-like cities constructed by the Nirreth), Jet is to be a pet for her Nirreth owner’s amusement. In addition to providing protection to Ogli, the young heir to the throne, Jet is slated to fight in the Rings for the amusement of Nirreth crowds. But only if she can pass the demonstration.

The first installment in The Slave Chronicles, The Culling is an enjoyable and fast-paced read. It’s got everything a YA (NA?) scifi fan could want: A kick-ass heroine. Sword play. Space ships and intergalactic travel. Environmental collapse. A burgeoning rebellion. Alien colonizers. Dinosaurs, even!

Especially captivating are the Nirreth and their artificial cities. I don’t know whether JC Andrijeski is a fan of Octavia Butler or not, but the Nirreth share many similarities with the Oankali from Lilith’s Brood. In both cases, the aliens visited Earth only when it was on the brink of environmental ruin (or just after, in the Oankali’s case). Whereas the Nirreth colonized Earth and kept humans as pets, the Oankali rescued the human survivors of a global nuclear war, keeping them alive and in stasis on their ships while they repaired Earth – all with the eventual goal of settling Earth and interbreeding with humans. (A “trading” species, the Oankali’s currency is their superior DNA.) Both species of aliens control humans through the use of organic chemicals: Nirreth inject humans with their stingers, while Oankali emit chemicals through their skin. Either way, the result is the same: these substances make humans more pliant and encourage positive feelings towards their captors. Eventually, often without even realizing it, humans come to enjoy their enslavement and non-consensual relationships with the Nirreth/Oankali. Despite these rights violations, the aliens see themselves as “benign dictators” – an advanced species that knows what’s best for all of humanity.

While The Culling is happily absent any rape scenes, it’s heavily implied – if not outright stated – that the Nirreth commonly take their human pets as “lovers.” Of course, this raises all sorts of issues regarding consent; I’m curious to see how Andrijeski will handle this in upcoming installments.

* spoiler alert! *

I was going to give The Culling four stars…until the last few pages. While I saw the first plot twist coming from a mile away (suggesting that it wasn’t much of a twist at all), the second was more of a shock. Given the ending, I really, really, really hope that the author isn’t planning a romance between Jet and Anaze. Whether he was correct in thinking that she’d want to take on this role within the resistance or not, Anaze had no right to recruit Jet without her consent or knowledge. Worse still, she’s not some random stranger, but his best friend and a would-be partner. You simply cannot profess to love someone – and then sell her into slavery and enlist her in a war without her permission. It’s the ultimate betrayal, and whatever happens to Jet while in Nirreth custody ultimately falls at Anaze’s feet. This might very well include rape. Already she’s been stripped naked and subjected to a medical exam in front of Richter’s leering eyes; that’s a form of sexual assault right there.

Anaze set her up, full stop. If things work out the way he planned, perhaps Jet will be able to forgive him some day. But to be more than friends – or even just passing acquaintances – requires trust and intimacy, neither of which Anaze has earned. I will throw my Kindle if these two end up together, is what I’m saying. (Onto a generously padded mattress, but still. I WILL THROW IT AT SOMETHING.)

3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 on Amazon. I’m curious to see how this plays out – and will probably download the next installment on Amazon – but also more than a little apprehensive about the pending (maybe?) romance.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed under , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply