Kingdom: Tiber City Blues

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While more science fiction than speculative fiction, Anderson O’Donnell’s Kingdom: Tiber City Blues does a deep dive into the consequences of ‘what if’ scenarios. In this case, readers are presented with the authoritarianism accompanying human gene manipulation. This sci-fi thriller positions itself as a sort of noir taking the best parts of tropes quite familiar to cyberpunk, thriller, dystopian, and science fiction lovers.

While O’Donnell gives readers a plot that would slot in well alongside interpretations of Philip K. Dick’s work, the real star of the novel is the background world created. It is a grim, volatile setting bearing down on each and every character no matter how significant and no matter their status within the narrative.

The stories and perspectives of Jonathan Campbells, Meghan Morrison, and Dylan Fitzgerald paint a picture of Tiber City and the looming Project Exodus that must be stopped. Each character is presented in a state of desperation looking at once to escape and rectify their world. There is an implied depth to all of these characters, a depth suggested to the reader by the landscape. As readers wander through slouching neighborhoods riddled with mad-eyed cults and a violently desperate underclass, we realize it is the city itself driving the action. In fact, one could read the novel as a look into the genetics of the city itself—its genes, its cells being the humans moving through its veins. The prose swings from the hard-boiled kind of dialogue common to crime fiction/noir to detailed yet impressionistic descriptions making readers feel at once at home and estranged. In this way, the immediate plot is broken up, delayed so readers can take an active role in figuring out what may happen next. Yet, O’Donnell is able to confound expectations while delivering satisfying crescendos.

Kingdom: Tiber City Blues is ambitiously attempting to blend multiple subgenres while giving a clear and compelling story. At times, O’Donnell falters, but he is always able to get his narrative back on track. There is certainly a lot of conceptual thinking going on, meaning readers may feel overwhelmed by all the speculative ideas being casually thrown around and often left to the imagination. However, this density is a necessity to ground O’Donnell’s characters and propel the story. Suspicion of technology as humanity’s savior, contempt for the corporations proclaiming that gospel and insistence on the emotional connection is what humans most need infuse this novel. Lovers of innovative science fiction will find Kingdom: Tiber City Blues quite satisfying.


Reviewed By:

Author Anderson O'Donnell
Star Count 3.5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 266 pages
Publisher Montag Press
Publish Date 2019-02-19
ISBN 0978429429846
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue November 2019
Category Science Fiction & Fantasy
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