Three Eight One

By Aliya Whiteley

Three Eight One, a novel by Aliya Whiteley
Book details

As a someone who studied history, I am fascinated by the past, but also the evolution of studying the past. History as we know it adapts and changes with the current way of thinking. Sometimes you must sit back and remember that things were different back then, that opinions and attitudes were just not the same. You can extrapolate this idea into the future and Science Fiction. For instance, in Three Eight One, author Aliya Whiteley explores how a historian 300 years in the future may react to a work of fiction from 2024. 

Rowena Savalas has not decided what to do with their life yet, but it is 2314 and, in this day and age, you can spend some time discovery your place. Perhaps the answer is within the vast archives from the Age of Riches, an era in which it seems almost all thoughts and art were committed to the internet. Rowena enjoyed deep diving into obscure and little read works. One such book is The Dance of the Horned Road, a coming-of-age Science Fiction story from 2024. By reading the story of Fairly in Horned Road, Rowena discovers something about themselves. 

Science Fiction can be anything, so it is the perfect genre for experimentation. As a fan of the genre, I was able to get my head around Three Eight One, but a reader looking for a straight narrative structure will need to look elsewhere. This is a dual narrative, the story of Fairy as she sets out on her quest and Rowena’s reaction to this told through the footnotes. What you get from the book will depend on how Fairy’s journey impacts you. 

Just taking the story within the story alone, this still feels like an experimental novel. Fairy lives in a twisted dystopian future in which the young are encouraged to set out on a Quest. The world reminded me of The Prisoner with a dark dogged presence like that from Half Life 2. It is an acid trip of fantasy science fiction. Fairly meets strangers on her Quest and then moves on. It seems that although Fairly is stepping out on her own path, it is well trodden by those that have walked it before. 

It takes deeper minds than my own to unearth the truth from Horned Road, but I read it as an allegory for the human condition. Fairly is so busy reaching for her end Quest that she walks past several places where she could have been happy. In which part of our own Quest do we decide to stop, or do we roll the dice and hope the next thing is better? 

I am not someone who is into deep introspective thought. If you are a reader that enjoys self-discovery, then the book will speak to you. It certainly spoke to Rowena in the other part of the narrative. Their footnotes give you an insight into the character but also the future of humankind. We now exist in the Age of Curation. All answers have already been answered, we just need to sift to find it.  

I enjoyed these Science Fiction nuggets the most about the book. Although a small part of the story, I found myself drawn to the idea of future generations mining our present-day internet for the gold contained well hidden in an endless sea of virtual landfill. 

It was nice to read a book about a passion for art. Rowena found an obscure text and let it into their lives, changing the way that they perceive things. This happens in art. Catcher in the Rye has always meant to be a book that formulates young minds, but for me it will always be The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or Red Dwarf. Three Eight One could be that book to a reader out there, it certainly poses enough questions to do so. The multi-layered narrative and trippy story telling makes it a complex read, but if you like your books to challenge, you will find something to ponder – be it the meaning of life, or an interesting sci fi tidbit or two.

Written on 16th January 2024 by .

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