Joseph Marshall is about to graduate from the Academy he has attended and will be deployed to a specific Sector or area for the remainder of his enlistment.
Hearing his voice from the start of this novel and the conversation between Joseph and his mom, the tension mounts from the start, her concerns for his future revealed and their differences expressed. From the start we learn that the world created in this book is quite unique as author Harule Stokes allows readers into the world of the Keynosians and the rift between them and the Northern Alliance. Conflicts come about, characters become embroiled in the conflicts and the struggle for each one to find his/her own way and identity begins.
Caste systems are not new to many cultures and countries. Within the structure of the world created by the author find a military state run society where people are classified according to their intelligence levels and physical attributes. Intermingling with other members of other levels is frowned upon and job assignments after graduating from the Academy are given out accordingly. Where parties are fun but the drug level runs high allowing some to have access to certain drugs while others more potent we learn from the start that this society is run by the military with strict rules, regulations and whose purpose is to avoid war.
Imagine what happens when Joseph Marshall is given his assignment and slated in a higher level, being sent to Westwood and under the radar of his Commander. Peace is essential and saving the world from war their goal but just what is his role and what about his feelings with being paired with a Fallen? A world that may appear quite opposite to ours yet when you dissect it and look closer you decide where the differences are. Meeting his Commander and hearing his true mission alerts readers to the background behind the society. The Commander gave his life for the Sacrifice and was granted Eternal Life. Although he fought in the Great War over 70 years before we meet Joseph, he does not age. The mission he is requested to investigate his new partner assigned to him in the Investigation and Control division in Westland, the Sector he is assigned to. Just what part if any did he have in a recent murder?
Next we meet Joseph and his mother as they interact before leaving for the Sectors, their discussion on the way and the fear within her heart about his safety we learn more about his feelings about why he took on this assignment, her trepidations and her hopes for him to survive. As you meet the many recruits and you hear the discussion you learn more about why they collar and sedate the Keynosians, the meaning of their collar, the reasons why they are considered subhuman and the indignities they face just trying to survive. Hoping to change things and wanting to just complete his assignment something happens when he and the others tour the facility as one Keynosian refuses to submit to the drugs, the shots and the collar forcing so many to put their lives on the line and Joseph proving his metal or worth. Meeting Isaiah, David, Jennifer his girlfriend and Zek his best friend you begin to understand the different perspectives each has on these people, or Southies as they refer to them, the hate they feel for their fellow humans and the sadness that Joseph feels when he winds up killing one.
Dealing with the intake officer who cannot handle the razz, the questions and the harassment of the recruits the reinforcements arrive, sides are drawn, Joseph picks his and then we meet Ethel. Ethel is smart, strong, Level 10 and is taken with Joseph and is impressed with his ability to handle a dangerous situation even before getting to the Sectors. Jealousies arise as Jennifer dislikes Ethel’s attention to Joseph, arguments ensue and they separate as he is about to learn more about what he has to do, deal with the injuries from killing this man and hopefully survive the rest.
In a world where class, caste and discrimination reign we learn more about why these people are being subdued. Could it be because they are smart and could overturn what these people have created? Why can’t they contribute? What makes them so violent? Added in Zek has a plan or scheme to steal the plants placed on the grave of a dead Keynosian for profit. Earthbound is what it is called and from what we hear as we listen to the conversation if found, if picked in the right quantity it is worth quite a bit.
Enter the Sector and meet his superior David but first we meet Reynold a Keynosian working with David. Getting to know him we learn that he is collared but the drug does not seem to subdue him like others, we learn more about the Keynosian’s why some think they are dangerous and finally hear the voice of David. David and Joseph face off you might say, a rocky start, David’s awareness of why he has been sent there, the files that will help him uncover who murdered or killed Carl and the fingers that he hopes won’t point to David. Each step of the way we realize that oppressing these people seems to be the only way to protect the Northern Alliance yet David has his own methods that have yet to be revealed.
Truths lie hidden, different versions about these people are revealed and Joseph remembers what his mother related to him and what he learns from Reynold. Just why did things happen? Were these people “ commanded to work for goods they could provide for themselves?” Did their bosses burn their means of producing their food and force them to rely on the North? Did they sabotage the factories because they were not paid more and did not want to work for what they got? Just what is the truth? Added in we learn when meeting David about the King Sword, his symbol or respect and we hear Reynold’s take on it all.
Wars, abuse, drugs, slavery, mistreatment, oppression and classifying people according to their intelligence, physical strength and much more making this society one that allows only the best to interact, socialize and the rest left to do the menial jobs. Is getting lot of money going to help Joe’s family survive yet taking away his integrity? What about finding out the truth about the murder? What about the scheme that his friend has cooked up?
Enter each sector is vividly described by the author allowing readers to create a mental image of the greenery, the landscape, the people, the buildings, the plants and the smells. Making this mental image of each sector and each scene and you decide what kind of a world the author has created.
Each time David and Joseph discuss his mission and meet some of the others in the Sectors things happen. Breakfast with Reynold at his home is enlightening. Next we meet Satpal and her grandmother. She is an unempowered who appears distant and cold. But, something happens, an explosion occurs and once again Joseph is put to the test to see how fast he can handle serious situations. You make your own decisions and you make your own way says his mother, so does Reynold and so he begins to understand as he tries to find his own way, his own place in world filled with hate, filled with revenge and where vigilante justice and the rule of the people decides the fate of an individual.
David murders a man in cold blood at the behest of the crowd “when his crimes are too serious to ignore” says, Satpal. Joseph’s reaction is remarkable and the end result might surprise you. Getting to know Satpal, dealing with dangerous situations, being reminded by his mother that he chooses his path and direction, Joseph begins to grow as a person, as a man and in his position. But, questions remain unanswered as he and Satpal recreate the murder scene find evidence of guilt in the photos and then have to decide on who is guilty.
But, things get out of hand and Joseph is injured and his healing powers come into question, his friendship with David tested and his loyalties questioned. Meeting Satpal’s family and hearing the many voices of his new friends we begin to wonder about his heritage. Identifying those that are dead by their mark of an empowered, which enhances their body. The mark is what is killing the Fallen or consuming them. The reasons and the graphic explanation you can read at the bottom of page 287. However, the Keynosians feel that no one really dies and that what they claim about the mark is false. Dealing with her family and meeting her father he enters a whole new world learns about the Gathering, experiences it and then we learn more about Satpal as Joseph tries to take things one step further and her response lets you know that differences in races and people will not allow it and lines cannot be crossed.
Harsh realizations about those he trusts come to light and Joseph is faced with making a moral decision that will change the complexion of his life, his relationship with David, Satpal and Reynold when a hidden truth about each one of them is revealed. Faced with the death of a close friend how will he proceed to find those responsible? Who can he trust? Who is hiding in plain sight waiting to take him down? Not wanting to kill a young teen might have cost him a lot. His feelings about murder and treating people as human’s conflicts with those he works for and met. What will the end result be and will he complete his mission?
Deceptions run high as we close in on the truth behind what David and others were really enlisted to do as many lives are lost, trusts are betrayed and Joseph learns a harsh reality about himself as one friend is gone and his life rejoiced. Just where will the final road take him remains to be seen? You are the one that decides your destiny he has been told so many times. The ways of the Keynosian people are no longer foreign to him. An explosive ending that will make everyone stop and think about the way we treat people, how we interact with other races and why we cannot get along without wars, fighting for control and hurting others that are weaker than we are. The seeds of mother Earth where will they wind up? What does the future hold for Joseph? What’s next? Author Harule Stokes created a world that just might not be so far fetched in the future. The issues brought to light are many and the impact of this book is strong. A definite must read!