The Hour Before Morning

Arwen Spicer
Arwen Spicer. Lulu, $17 paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-105-08111-8
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Spicer provides a vivid vision of a future racked by interplanetary strife between the oppressors and the oppressed. Imprisoned by the Ash'torian regime, 120-year-old Jenchae and 263-year-old Elek share a cell onboard a prison spaceship bound for the Death Planet. Tension arises as Jenchae, a nonviolent protester, debates the propriety of reading the mind of violent murderer Elek to help him find peace. The situation within the cell provides a tense dramatic situation, but frequent flashbacks introduce a distracting abundance of characters and defuse the tension between Elek and Jenchae. The entry of female prisoner Meravyn—and her ability to see the humanity in those she fought—helps lay the basis for the affirmation of a shared consciousness and the inanity of warfare. The aftermath of the final catastrophe leaves readers to wonder if Elek will resume his warlike ways. Spicer's imaginative narrative will certainly pique the interest of those who enjoy top-notch world building; however, her exuberant use of invented detail may weary some.
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