Review: Children of Arkadia by M. Darusha Wehm

Children of Arkadia coverOriginally released as an eBook, the novel Children of Arkadia by M. Darusha Wehm from Canadian science fiction publisher Bundoran Press will hit the shelves in print format on April 28, 2015. This adventurous story of man’s pilgrimage to the stars is a unique perspective on the human condition with some familiar historical and literary similarities as well as a few new twists.

Children of Arkadia is a character driven political story centering on the band of rebels who fought against the corruption of old Earth and escaped to four giant centrifugal space stations orbiting Jupiter. As the wave of shuttles continue to bring future inhabitants to these new worlds, a band of artificially intelligent sentients establish themselves as vital members of the community. Working together, everyone must pitch in if the future of civilization is going to succeed, and the secrets hidden within the AGIs just might be the key to humanity’s future.

In similar fashion to the Puritan Separatists who settled North America after leaving behind what they believed was a corrupt Church of England, the Arkadian tried to approach every facet of life in a new light, making every effort not to emulate what they had worked so hard to leave behind. But as in almost every society, democracy can be a difficult hurdle when the direction of guidance is clouded by old habits.

The names have changed, but a lot of the prejudices and fears of the old world inevitably follow the human contingent. As sections of the wheel are established into individual communities, it doesn’t take long for tension between factions grow. Each area must work concurrently with the other in order to thrive. Areas specializing in farming, agriculture, trade, industrial, and even technological elements all see the need for each other. But when doubters and slackers arrive and divisional entitlement comes to a head, the freedom within the social structure inevitably begins to break down.

While the human element struggles with the emotional and moral discrepancies, the AGI contingent must battler their own indifferences when dealing with their sentient counterparts. The artificials have accepted their responsibility of guiding the people, the Children of Arkadia, and the decisions that come along with this obligation do not come easy.

The story also reminds one of William Golding’s dystopian novel Lord of the Flies as it pits a group of young boys stranded on an island who must learn to survive on their own. Disastrous results soon follow as the boys struggle to govern themselves. The power of voice given to whoever holds the conch can be likened to the collective voice of the artificials who are the ones truly in control. As readers follow the naïve perspective of many of the citizens of Arkadia, the blind innocence displayed in Golding’s story is eerily comparable.

One element that may be confusing for readers is the varying jumps in timeline. It is understandable that elapses in time are important to establish the long evolution of the Arkadian society, but the arbitrary elapse in time without any direct reference or indication can be distracting.

M. Darusha Wehm has created a complex future where the delusion of choice is blurred by the nurturing guidance of artificial intelligence. And even though technology was created by humanity to strengthen our existence and enhance our survivability, we still fall victim to those emotional weaknesses that make us human in the first place.

Children of Arkadia will pose many more questions than answers. And that’s a good thing. From a fan of dystopian science fiction who is always looking for intriguing points to ponder, this book fits the bill.

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