Ossus Library Index
Science Fiction Index


A novel by Nadia Afifi
(2020, Flame Tree Press)

Amira Valdez, book 1

A young woman who escaped oppressive Compounds is assigned to psycho-analyze a woman pregnant with a clone, who is the target of extremism from many sectors, and the potential victim of a drug that could permit the Compounds to control people to an unprecedented degree.


-- First reading (ebook)
Read October 15th to 27th, 2022


The story had a decent flow, and I don’t have any complaints, except that I don’t have any big recommendations, either. I struggled through several sections, while others were easier to read, making the book uneven. The main character didn’t hold my interest, nor did the enigmatic Hadrian. Given how these two are the main characters, it didn’t bode well for my enjoyment. The mystery of what happened to Rozene was well revealed by Amira’s machines and her experience within the Compound, but the complex relationships between the three main researchers just seemed way too complicated. The journey into space seemed forced. At least the climax had a decent amount of action and character progression. In the end, I found this book to be forgettable, and I don’t think I’ll be returning for the rest of Amira’s adventures.

Spoiler review:

I don’t need to know what happened to the world to enjoy a futuristic SF novel, but I’m really wondering how these compounds were created, and how they are permitted to continue functioning. I suppose such things still exist in the US and elsewhere, but it’s so far from my experience that it made for a difficult setup for me.

I also wonder how the world’s first clone could cause so much uproar –protests, sure, but so many plots to recover the clone, especially for the purposes of burning it, seem a little extreme for any government to allow –I hope.

Amira is a research student in a visual psychology field that can do some pretty neat stuff. Having a machine that can delve into a person’s psyche and translating what it interprets into visual memories is something that could be very useful. Amira is very skilled at using this, and in addition, she’s an escapee from one of the three main compounds that hold onto their people with religious fervor. I’m not sure what vision their leader had, but he certainly doesn’t believe in what he’s preaching. Rape, forced marriage, torture, and so on are the norms, and the women bear the brunt of all of this. It’s like being transported back to the 1600s, but worse, because the men have access to all sorts of technology. Honestly, it wasn’t something I was interested in reading about. On the other hand, seeing their leaders being torn apart by the robots was more satisfying because of it, but by that time, I was less invested in the story.

It seems that Amira is the only one who can get the bottom of the mystery, and she is recruited by Hadrian from the NASH space corps. Young Rozene, also an escapee, is the only surviving member of the cloning project, and she’ll be due in a few weeks. The director of the project doesn’t want Amira there, but needs to know why the others died. It seems that one of the Big Three cloning sponsors is in league with one of the compounds, and sabotages it with an experimental drug. He’s obviously in over his head, and ends up dead at the end because he’s made a deal with the devil.

The experimental drug allows the compound heads like Elder Young to control the bodies of others, and Amira sees this in one of Rozene’s dreams, but the faces are blanked out. Amira manages to get the original memories back, seeing the three members who were taking control of the young women.

With Hadrian’s help, Amira does some investigating, and ends up as a target. She saves Rozene, who is then kidnapped, so Amira makes a deal with Hadrian to get up to the orbital platforms, where she is attacked again, but finds the traitor tied to a chair being interrogated –because Amira stole the drug and he can’t make more.

They escape back to the surface, where they confront Elder Young and the others in the house of one of the Big Three. A robotic defence system is activated, along with some strange mirror-portal that duplicates people’s images, making holograms of them as distraction targets.

In the end, Rozene is rescued and gives birth, Amira and Hadrian escape, and Elder Young and his people are either killed or taken into custody.

Amira, unfortunately, didn’t interest me, and neither did her world. Her friend D’Arcy was a bit of a caricature, and managed to help in a couple of spots, but the dialog and internal monologs were very simplistic. The triangle of cloning experts, each of whom turn on each other for no apparent reason, except maybe that they are under too much pressure, didn’t impress me. It was only Hadrian who decided to act, but in such a roundabout way that it made Amira’s job harder.

The book was good, but not great, and I wasn’t left with any feeling either to pursue the next stories or to halt midway through. It left me with very little impression, which means I’ll be passing on future books in this series.


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