Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Altered Straits by Kevin Martens Wong

Altered Straits is one of the best sci-fi books I've ever read. And I've read a couple. Although not everything out there, fiction is just not my cuppa tea these days. In any case, I just had to buy this book with my latest paycheck after reading a teaser that the publisher put out that got me hooked.

Set in Singapore, the story has 2 main characters, Titus, who is a soldier in the year 2047, and Naufal, a merlionsman, also a type of soldier, set in 1947.

In the future, Singapore and most of the world have been destroyed at the feet of the mighty Concordance. Titus is part of the resistance, fighting to keep the country alive. He has a secret that he keeps hidden from his family and colleagues though - a lover named Akash. Somewhat unsurprisingly, being gay, or having a gay relationship seems to be illegal in the country even in the somewhat dystopian future. I really liked the character development of Titus throughout the book.

Naufal is the younger brother whose elder brother, Nabhan, enlisted to be a merlionsman before him. In battle, his merlion died, and because of pair-bonding (in which the human and creature have their minds are blended together) Nabhan was never the same again. He can barely feed himself and when he speaks, it's incomprehensible. Naufal fears that the same would happen to him and nearly ran away the night before the day of his enlistment.

The novel tracks the journey of both characters, each called to defend Singapore from a foreign enemy using the best of their abilities.

At the end of the novel, using a time-travelling device, their paths eventually meet and the ending was bittersweet.

The story kept me at the edge of my seat and because it alternated smoothly between Titus and Naufal, it didn't get boring at all. The people and scenes felt very realistic too even though it was set in both an imagined past and future.

I must say the merlions were an interesting touch. What the author proposed certainly sounds feasible to me in the next 50-100 years. Would actually be kinda interesting to see a real merlion he described in the future.

This is the first book I've read about sci-fi set in Singapore. It's brilliantly done and I must say credit probably goes to both the author and his editors. Keep up the good work Epigram!

Grab your copy today!

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