By Roark Arnett
- The Nursery
Author: Roark Arnett
- Series: Book 1 of The Egg Hunters
Publisher: Self Published
- ISBN: 9781778221606
- Published: September 2022
- Pages: 338
- Format reviewed: Paperback
- Review date: 06/10/2022
- Language: English
Science Fiction writers love a dystopia, there are so many ways that it could all go wrong. Overpopulation is one. It not a pleasant thing to think about, but we already use too many of the world’s finite resources and as the population grows, this is going to get even worse. In The Nursery by Roark Arnett, the problem is compounded as women have started to asexually produce copies of themselves. Families of six to twelve identical women are not uncommon and men are becoming extinct. On second thoughts, maybe there are some benefits to this dystopian future.
In a future of large families Kenleigh is an outlier. Known as an Infertile she is unable to have children, and this makes her a target for all the people who are having multiple copies of themselves. Even though being infertile is uncommon, it is not unknown, and Kenleigh is something else. She comes under the gaze of a mysterious private company who want to experiment on her, and the government is also interested. Kenleigh finds herself trapped in a cold war between the private and the public sector and things are starting to hot up.
Nursery is a bold idea and is unapologetic in places. The concept of self-fertilisation is intriguing, what would happen is women began to rapidly outpace men? Originally, I thought this was going to be a personal journey of one woman, Kenleigh, as she traverses this world as an unwanted Infertile, but Arnett paints a far larger dystopian world. Innovative technology has allowed people to have implants that can be used for communication and monitoring. In recent years it has transpired that you can use this technology to create power. The best vessels are children. Across the globe rogue states are harnessing children to make energy, often ending in mass murder.
This is high stakes. The book moves between the personal journey of Kenleigh and the international world of the World Health Organisation and in particular an investigation by Collective Consciousness Engineer Isiah Tanning. As the book progresses the two stories begin to converge as Kenleigh starts to realise that she has a bigger role in world politics than she could ever have imagined.
The world building is dark and menacing. A calculated and cold future. The politics in the book plays a key role and in places it feels like a science fiction spy thriller. As the finale arrives the book follows the later Sean Connery/Roger Moore school of spy craft with a megalomaniac villain and hidden base. The story ramps up well enough that this high action element of the book works, but it does seem hugely different to the start.
Nursery is also a book that should have a warning as it does have scenes of sexual assault. There is an uncomfortable scene towards the end that is highly stressful, but within the cartoonish part of the story. I am not sure that the narrative had earned the reader’s trust to go quite this far. It is not helped that the character of Isiah is a ‘good guy,’ but he is misogynistic as well. In a world dominated by women, I would hope this is one element of the male psyche that they would stamp out asap.
Fertility and infertility are always going to be controversial subjects for some and will have a personal resonance with them. Nursery does not treat the subject with quite the sensitivity it should, it is no The Handmaid’s Tale. However, the elements about a technical dystopian future work very well. The politics and spy craft shine and you have a classic feeling cold war style book set in the future.
Written on 6th October 2022 by Sam Tyler .