Sunday, March 4, 2012
Xenofreak Nation by Melissa Conway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Xenofreak Nation is an imaginative and fast-paced sci-fi novel which grabbed me from the first few pages, and kept me coming back until I finished it (barely a day later).
In the near future, xenografts (transplants of animal skin) have overtaken tattoos as a fashion-and-lifestyle statement. The writing is full of vivid description, and I had no trouble picturing the strange grafts. We first meet our heroine Bryn as she watches with mixed feelings as her father gives an impassioned, if well-rehearsed, speech to an anti-xenograft mob. But on her way home, she's kidnapped by a group of "xenofreaks" and swept off to the secret headquarters of the XBestia gang. As an innocent and wholesome young woman, Bryn can only imagine what she's getting into. Meanwhile, Scott Harding is an undercover agent who's been working hard to build the trust of XBestia's leaders; he can't afford to destroy his cover for the sake of one girl.
There's plenty of action to keep things interesting, and everyone in this novel has their own agenda, which makes for a plethora of compelling plot twists and surprises. The narrative follows the oft-intertwined stories of both Bryn and Scott, leaving the reader in no doubt that they're both the "good guys" (despite some difficult decisions on both sides), but the same can't be said for the large and fluid cast of allies and enemies. I really enjoyed the play of shifting allegiances and complex relationships, and it all comes together in a satisfying and dramatic finale.