Author: Shaun Young.
Genre: Science Fiction, young adult.
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press.
Pages/Word Count: 234 pages
Sixteen-year-old James Fisher lives on the distant planet of Castor where he toils for the ruling classes as an indentured servant. He’s a “Half-Adapt”–one of thousands like him who were shipped to Castor from Earth and biologically altered so they could breathe the planet’s atmosphere unaided. As Earth fades in his memory, James resigns himself to life under Castor’s strict social hierarchy. But then he meets his master’s nephew, Vidal Centa, and their strong attraction for each other begins to transcend Castor’s rigid class stratums.
Encouraged by his friend, Femi, to join the defiant Independence Society, which seeks to overthrow Castro’s punishing oligarchy, James faces a difficult choice. As his feelings for Vidal intensify each day, he must wrestle with loving the young man who represents everything the Society hates and fighting for justice. As the civil war threatens to erupt, James fears if he continues to fight he’ll destroy his relationship with Vidal, and perhaps the entire planet.
In the distant future, humans will make it beyond the solar system, but some will wish they hadn’t. Poor 16-year-old James Fisher survived an unimaginably brutal war on earth, only to end up being shipped off in stasis to Castor, a colonized planet many light years away, and then had his organs ripped out and replaced so that he could survive on a hostile planet as a virtual slave to a plantation owner. Oh the life of a Half-Adapt war refugee. Add to the equation that James is a gay teen living in a repressive farm community on a rather regressive planet and one doesn’t exactly have a very pleasant life in store for them, especially since the term of indenture is for 30 years! What a wonderfully imaginative sci-fi novel Shaun Young has written. He sketches out a dark, dystopian future from the perspective of a hapless young adult, who barely remembers his former life on Earth.
The novel is as much a political thriller as it is science fiction, as the story involves those thousands of Half-Adapts like James, who come to resent the privileges of the fully human and the apartheid type caste system they created to justify their rule. In many ways, the story echoes the colonial period in U.S. history, when young kids were indentured to a master, and treated brutally by their “owners.” Like that period, the backdrop of this book is a revolutionary movement that seeks to bring about freedom and equality for all. But the message is not the simple good vs. evil narrative we get in school books, where justice always prevails in the end. Young is too sophisticated of a thinker for that. The story is filled with gray areas, as James gets caught up in the revolutionary movement and has to live with its brutal implications. Complicating things further is that James falls in love with Vidal, son of an elite human, one of the enemy, forcing James to realize that love rarely aligns with political ideology and social class.
The novel doesn’t shy away from asking some pretty tough questions of those who think that simply overthrowing the political system will solve all our problems. What will actually change? In America, a rich white American elite simply replaced a rich white British elite. Freedom and equality for slaves? That was for future generations. Castor is a wonderful book with a difficult but necessary message, especially in a time filled with polarized politics.
I don’t think I’d ever want to visit Castor, but I’m delighted I got to read about it. All in all, this is an intriguing and thought-provoking debut novel by Shaun Young, and I can’t wait to read his next offering. I’m hoping for a sequel!
Jay Jordan Hawke is the award winning author of the Two-Spirit Chronicles, which includes: Pukawiss the Outcast, A Scout is Brave, and Onwaachige the Dreamer. He is an avid sci-fi fan. His first love was Star Wars, but alas, he married Star Trek. Learn more about Jay Hawke at his homepage and on Facebook.