Intense, sophisticated YA Science Fiction that gripped my imagination, engaged my emotions and kept surprising me
“The Diabolic” was one of those rare books that I slid right into. It lit up my imagination and pulled on my emotions as if it had been tailor-made to feed my hungers. It grabbed me the same way “The Hunger Games” did. It has the same intense focus on the difficult choices imposed on the main character by a brutally violent power structure. Keeping the story personal avoids the world-building from getting lost in either science or sociology and amplifies the emotional impact of the story.
But, Nemesis, the main character in this book, is no Katniss Everdeen. She is a Diabolic, a genetically engineered creature, conditioned from birth to be capable of great violence and to give her entire loyalty to a single person. Owned by a powerful family, she exists to keep the daughter of the House safe from all threats.
Nemesis is the creation of the elite of a ruthless far-distant future galactic empire. The power of the elite comes from owning and controlling ancient space travel technologies that allow them to dominant planet-bound populations. The elite, who have held their power for centuries, have convinced themselves that they entitled to what they have, not because of the technology they control but because the practice of their Helios religion has won them the favour of the universe. The Helios religion has in turn interdicted as heretical the study of the technology that keeps the elite in power.
The plot follows the development of Nemesis from someone who sees herself as a soulless creature whose only purpose is to protect a young woman who lives on the edge of the Empire, through to someone whose circumstances have changed radically and who now must struggle to survive and to keep her true nature secretin the Emperor’s Court and finally, into an independent person with an agenda and ethics of her own.
The plot moves at a good pace with more than a few surprises along the way. Although the age of the main characters leads me to classify this book as Young Adult it pulls no punches when it comes to describing the violence, cruelty and brutality of the people who rule the Empire. Nemesis is a killer and is untroubled by that fact. Those around her value no life other than their own. This is a book where the environment of the is soaked in threat.
I enjoyed the originality of this book and its main character. It is tense and pulls hard on the emotions but remains rooted in an entirely plausible political pragmatism. It also explores some interesting questions about what really makes us human and whether we can be both human and ruthlessly powerful.
My enjoyment was added to by Candace Thaxton’s narration. I strongly recommend listening to the audiobook version (although, in the year since I bought my copy, this book no longer seems to be available on audible in the UK) click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.