Title: Sieging Manganela
Author: Charon Dunn
Genre: YA / Science Fiction
Sieging Manganela is a prequel in terms of chronology, but it can easily be read by itself. Featuring a few of the main characters from One Sunny Night and Retrograde Horizon, it primarily centers on the unlikely friendship between Turo, a soldier in the Vanram army, and Zeffany, a tech specialist who lives inside the city that’s under siege.
They’re supposed to be enemies, but he helps her get an injured friend out of danger and away from the war. Still, he’s loyal to his side. He reports back on what happened and helps lay a trap for anyone else who might come out of the city—and then attacks one of Zeffany’s fellow citizens when he was all-too-ready to press unwanted attentions on her.
What makes their friendship work is the fact that Zeffany’s more than ready to leave her city and the war behind. She isn’t that committed to the “noble” cause of staying behind the impenetrable, clear walls, holding onto their “everything for the good of the city” ways. And Turo is just a nice guy who follows orders but cares. They didn’t start the war, and they’re willing to forgive each other for belonging to the other side.
And while their relationship technically develops into a romance, that never becomes the primary focus. It feels like Zeffany and Turo care about each other and are good friends, but they’re far more interested in working out the logistics of being together and surviving the war than in reveling in the way they feel about each other.
The narration would benefit from some editing polish in places, as a few misspellings and vaguely worded sentences occur, but in many ways, this story sets up the world of the series better than any of the other novels. Turo and Zeffany are both mature enough to understand how the world works and to interact with it in ways Sonny rarely did, and their story presents lots of intriguing questions about reality, the nature of life, and what really matters.
One of the fascinating concepts used in the plot is that of psols, the core of a person that can be transferred to an electronic server and thus exist in purely digital form without a body. It can also live in the body for a few minutes after death, letting doctors bring Turo back after he attacks a drone on the battlefield.
When Zeffany’s side starts looking at zapping people’s psols out of their bodies, either as a way of transferring the citizens on her side out of their siege-trapped existence or to destroy the invading army, things get interesting, especially since such “zapping” is illegal in the international political community. It creates a plot of cybernetic “rapture” that is intellectual intriguing and alarming at the same time.
The story is imaginative yet believable, showing the horrors of war while permitting the participants to retain their humanity. Readers who enjoy science fiction that makes them think, with well-paced action and adventure and likable characters will be drawn to this novel.
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