Every so often, a book captures your attention before you know much about it. When the author of Er or Seau: AI and the Enhanced Race (which I will simply refer to as Er or Seau from here) reached out to me and I looked into the book, this was definitely one of those situations. It is a science fiction tale involving different races, artificial intelligence, a post-apocalyptic dystopia and time travel. But more importantly, it is a story about the human condition and what makes us…us.
The first five chapters of Er or Seau follow Mi, plotting to escape the mysterious Center. As this plan takes effect, she is introduced to Seau, who from the sixth chapter is revealed to be the story’s protagonist, at which point, the story gains momentum. This approach builds mystery about the world while providing plenty of clearly drawn exposition about this futuristic world. When the narrative shifts to Seau, it takes the reader out of their element as the world opens up. I will avoid going into any more detail about the plot for risk of spoiling it, as it is full of twists and turns that would be better read in the book, instead of by way of a summary and my opinion.
Author Julia Dadanova has packed the story to the brim with advanced science, clearly articulating the futuristic world Seau inhabits. While I make absolutely no claims of being a scientist, nor do I have a scientific background, I can only assume that Dadanova has a far greater understanding of science than I, or has spent a large proportion of time researching for the novel. The science in this book, while being very much outside the world’s current limitations, feels very real. Throughout the novel, the author breaks down these elements in a clear manner that guides the reader through it. As a result, I never found myself unable to suspend my disbelief.
With all that said, the science is not the defining trait of Er or Seau; that honour is reserved for the humanism within the book. Er is an “enhanced” being, borne from generations of trying to improve the human race. Having been raised in the Center, full of those like him, he takes an analytical approach to life and all that comes with it. Through the course of the story, he meets various characters who challenge his beliefs, and through this, he develops.
The story takes place in the future, but doesn’t specify to the reader how far away this future is. Not that it matters; the future setting allows the reader to see the impact on the world that our current actions are having, and how history keeps repeating itself as humanity (or the next stages from humanity) tries to learn from our past mistakes. Seeing humanity’s ills presented this way is sobering. However, Dadanova makes a point of showing the beauty of humanity as well, which is uplifting. The result is a story that lifts the reader up, while also bringing the reader down. I found myself nodding along, depressed by the mistakes we make as a people, while also seeing the beauty in people. It’s a difficult balance, but one that the author balanced well.
The book contains very little violence, and what is there is handled with subtlety, to the point where it is suitable for younger readers—while I don’t think children would understand the themes of the book, and I think that teenagers would get a lot from it. However, despite the subtlety of the violence, the book makes you feel the impact of the violence on these characters, while reminding you of just how savage humans can be. This resulted in a number of moments throughout the book that were quite affecting.
The book’s prose is very clear and crisp, which makes for a digestible read—I imagine it would suit people that find it difficult to parse large swathes of text. Going back to my earlier statement about teenagers getting a lot from the book, the prose’s simplicity would also make it easier for them to get into. Unfortunately, this results in a text that sometimes lacks colour, explaining what is happening without drawing emotion from it. This does suit the tone of the story, with a protagonist that struggles with emotion, but I would have appreciated a little more colour in the prose.
At 518 pages in paperback, presented in large print, and an estimated 219 “pages” on Kindle, Er or Seau is a fairly brisk read. The pacing is fantastic, keeping its momentum without slowing down unnecessarily. I will say that in the PDF version of the paperback I read, there are some formatting issues with paragraph spacing (particularly chapter 5) and the occasional punctuation errors, and sometimes these drew me from the story. I can’t say whether these issues extend to the eBook. But whenever this happened, Dadanova’s story drew me back in.
Be warned, though, Er or Seau comes with an abrupt ending. It definitely feels like there’s more to come, and if that is indeed the case, I look forward to more entries in the series. But regardless of whether or not we see a sequel, the ending left me more to ruminate on. And this, for me, is the biggest strength of the novel: between reading sessions, and a day after finishing reading it, the book is lingering in my head, making me think about human nature, and who we are as a species. I heartily recommend you reading it.
Mountains loomed on the horizon. It was hard to breathe the hot, dusty air, so some of the children couldn’t stand it anymore and went back inside. Only Mi was hurriedly moving further away from the Center. The children stared at her in confusion. A boy of about seven years old, standing a little apart from the others, followed her, slowly at first, then noticeably quickening his pace. After a few minutes, he caught up with her, but Mi kept walking as if she didn’t notice him. Big-headed with narrow shoulders, he had inquisitive blue eyes and wispy blond hair. Light-colored freckles danced across the bridge of his nose like a playful tattoo.Er or Seau: AI and the Enhanced Race, Chapter 5: “The Escape”
Er or Seau: AI and the Enhanced Race was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.
Er or Seau is available in paperback and eBook form exclusively from Amazon.
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