Vevin Song by Jonathan Neves Mayers — SPFBO 9 REVIEW

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This is a dystopian story where the end of the world happened about 20 years ago, but this hasn’t anything to do with somethings humans did to themselves — nuclear winter, climate change, world war II etc. Creatures called lightbirds have taken over the planet. They are bird-people like creatures that have built-in energy weapons that have a fantastic lethality about them. Even if you don’t take what would be a mortal wound from a normal blade, just a nick from these blades always call fatal infections. This is an interesting story and I wasn’t quite sure if I was reading scifi or fantasy through much of it since a lot of this revolves around technology and not magic. The lightbird invasion has forced humanity to go under the water for refuge. Why? Because lightbirds and water don’t mix, apparently. Water getting on a lightbird has a wicked witch of the west effect and it’s like napalm, they just start dissolving. So, water has been turned into both refuge and weapon with soldiers or “gold gills” using water marble guns as weaponry.

So, the main character of this story, Marla was rescued as an infant from these lightbirds and was adopted into the Hightower family, which is a well-to-do family all things considered. Humanity lives in “cocoons” under the water with like 1,000 people per cocoon, and once down there tehy aren’t allowed to leave. IIRC, Marla’s father was a counselor for many years and so her family gets special treatment to a point, he’s retired now, old, and an alcoholic since his wife died. People living in cocoons underground have weakened some people and without the sun they kind of wither and die, which is what happened to Marla’s mother. Marla has also been assigned the role of “teacher” it doesn’t sound like you get to pick your careers and Marla is miserable with hers. She doesn’t seem to like kids, she hates teaching, and puts no effort into it at all. It’s here where you’re introduced as a reader to this character and she starts out fairly unlikeable. However, she goes through a LOT of shit and I came around to her eventually despite the fact that she remains kind of a bitter, impulsive, and angry person lol.

It’s not a spoiler to say this since it’s in the synopsis on goodreads, but later on in the story Marla sprouts wings like the lightbirds have, and somehow gains superhuman strength and has to escape from the cocoon and try to live above the water to escape being experimented on and tortured down in the cocoon. This is where things really kick off and there’s a lot of action and world building expansion as we get to meet and talk with the lightbirds.

So, I could not help but question… how do they make it through our atmosphere if they’re killed by water splashing on them? Living in Louisiana should seemingly be a foolproof way to live without fear of lightbirds since the humidity is like 100%, lol.

The writing style wasn’t bad, but it’s the kind of style that doesn’t produce pictures in my head. I have a very, very difficult time visualizing things and purely using descriptors doesn’t help — so, it’s a “me not you” moment here. I respond much better to simile and metaphor because it conjures images my mind has already “seen” and so the visuals come much easier. To describe something novel or new using just descriptive words does not produce jack diddly in my head.

This felt very much like a science fiction, but I can see how it qualifies as a fantasy since the Lightbirds as far as I read, were not explained as aliens or some kind of science experiment gone wrong. However, I wouldn’t bat an eye if that turned out to be the explanation later on. There are guns, pressure suits, underwater cities, screens that simulate the environment — it just feels like a scifi movie. There was a kind of explanation of the culture of the the lightbirds later on which is good because I was not vibing with the murderous rage-birds with no depth which was all we knew for the first quarter of the book. I did end up setting it down around 50% though knowing that it wasn’t going to knock off one of my top three.

I think people who want a dystopian Earth story with monsters and mayhem — if that premise sounds fun to you I think you might enjoy it. It had a little bit of a stuttering start with a prologue that maybe it didn’t need, but it quickly picked up the pace. There is quite a bit of action, blood, death, and just dark concepts once the book gets going, so that’s something to keep in mind while picking this up.