“In the distant dystopian irradiated future of Cradle and Grave, Dar Lien is a professional scout for scavenger runs into the Scab, a ruined urban-zone badly infected by heavily mutagenic phenomena called the Change. When Yusuf and the mysterious Servertu employ her for an unorthodox run into the Scab, she finds herself embroiled in a conflict she didn’t expect.”
Cradle and Grave is a dark, foreboding story set in a discomfiting dystopia. After some unspecified event in the not so distant past, Change spread out across the world, disrupting organic life and inorganic material in terrifying ways. Mutant humans and animals haunt the landscape, and the humans who have survived this long do whatever they can to keep the Change from colonizing them. Yusuf is half-man half-horse, a prefab or genetically and physically modified human, while Servertu appears to be entirely unChanged; Lien herself suffers from a volatile Change that is slowly turning her insectoid.
Most of the plot involves Lien guiding outsiders Yusuf and Servertu through the Scab toward a mysterious destination. The longer they traverse the hellscape, the more Lien learns about the men who hired her, the dangerous environment she lives in, and her own background. Lien has an inexplicable connection to their final destination, and she’s enticed as much by the possibility of uncovering the secrets of her past as she is by the money Yusuf and Servertu are paying her.
The worldbuilding is top-notch, followed closely behind by character development. Anya Ow is great at description and setting the tension. Although the progression of the plot moves in fairly predictable ways, everything else is so evocative and unique that I was never bored. Given how good this novella is, I’d really like to see what she does with a full-length novel.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy.