I’m back with another review of a NetGalley find, this time a science fiction novel due to hit shelves in early October.
Savant is a book centered around an ‘Active’, an outlying individual who helps power the Shield that protects the Earth from unwanted prying eyes. When Active Tobe is caught in a probability loop it affects the well-being of the Shield, and thus, the entire world.
While I’m happy to report that I enjoyed this book, it wasn’t quite what I expected.
From the book synopsis I received, I really was not expecting the character studies that played out within its pages.
Readers are introduced to Master Tobe, an Active, and his Assistant-Companion, Metoo. Metoo is basically a live-in caretaker for Tobe, who I rather quickly figured out is on the autistic spectrum. While there are other characters and perspectives throughout the novel, these two are the main players and the ones that influence the action most.
It was interesting to read about the interplay between characters, because while Metoo and Tobe understood each other, other people often misinterpreted or found Tobe’s actions alarming. The cast of minor characters were compelling and well-fleshed out. Though their actions were frustrating more often than not, they always made sense within the world presented to the reader.
It’s rather quickly established through context that they live in a world quite unlike our own. There is a system of Colleges set up worldwide to enable Service (a global surveillance system) in monitoring the inhabitants within. Civilians are mentioned, but the reader knows nothing of the world outside the Colleges or if indeed there is one.
This is where I felt the novel lacked the most. I would have loved to have seen more in-depth world building. While it’s acknowledged that foods, textiles, and technology are different, the reader doesn’t know why that is the case besides a vague sense of things being set in the future. Beyond the cover of the book mentioning that the Shield is in place to protect Earth from aliens, nothing else is ever said about the nature of the threat from space, or how the Shield came to be in the first place.
The main plot of the book seemed rather shaky to me as I was quickly able to guess the source of Tobe’s distress, and was rather surprised when none of the other characters (especially Metoo) didn’t realize it until the very end. It seemed very unlikely that a society that revolved so much around monitoring people’s state of mind would cause such a panic over such a small thing.
I also thought the book tread on dangerous ground when it came to Master Tobe’s changes and the reason behind them. Autistic individuals have emotions, they just have trouble identifying them. Anxiety and depression can further muddle feelings and make them more difficult to identify. Tobe’s changes and the catalyst for them seemed a little offensive to me – and a little strange as well.
If you’re seeking a sci-fi novel, I would look elsewhere. However, if you’re looking for an exploration of emotion, of human overreaction, and of world building on a minute scale, this is the book for you.