Review of THE REBELLION’S LAST TRAITOR BY NIK KORPON

June 1st,2017
Angry Robot

Genre is just a method to tell a bookseller or librarian where to shelve your novel. But the beauty of genre is really, how can you bend it, how can you play with it and bend it to your story’s needs? A western can take place in modern day times, with riders on motorcycles instead of horses. A murder mystery can take place in a castle in the misty depths of the past. And with THE REBELLION’S LAST TRAITOR, Nik Korpon gives us a political thriller dressed in the trappings of ravaged dystopian future. Korpon gives us just enough background information to set the reader firmly in this world, and then sets the reader loose.

The Resource Wars are over. Water is scarce in Eitan City. Other people’s memories have become the drug of choice, and Henraek is the thief that harvests them for willing buyers. Civilization is divided sharply along political lines. After the dust settled from the Resource Wars, the Tathadann party came to power. Henraek and his comrade-in-arms Walleus have had to make difficult choices in the wreck of the current world political setting. After the rebellion failed and the Tathadann came to power, Walleus was quick to adapt to the new regime. Looking out for his old comrade, Walleus brought Henraek in from the cold and gave him his current job as a memory thief. Walleus lives in comfort with his two sons. Henraek lives in squalor with his girlfriend Emeriann. Life after wartime is not good. But life has fallen into a rhythm, with everyone assuming their roles and doing what they have to do to survive.

Korpon’s take on speculative fiction is unique. This isn’t a Michael Crichton novel; he respects the reader enough to know that he doesn’t need to explain the science of how memory harvesting works. It just does. But he gives us enough information to establish the rules of this future world. As the task of world-building goes on, Korpon doles out the names and titles of who did what and how it all fits together. But having the reader see the working of the haves and the have-nots through the eyes of Henraek first, and then Walleus, the reader can then truly understand that the concept of right and wrong is another casualty in this world.

The expression “History is Written by the Winners” is driven home in Eiten City. The Tathadann is in power, and they are maintaining their hold on the people by erasing all record of the people’s past. Now the citizens only have vague recollections of what actually happened before the Wars. Without official records, no one knows what actually happened, and what is just folktales and heresy. This sense of not-knowing is what makes the people hunger for the stolen memories that Henraek harvests. The more people ingest the memories of others, the more they become memory addicts, shutting off from the rest of the world, unable to make memories of their own. Half the citizens despise the Tathadann for atrocities committed during wartime. The other half are making due as best they can. Those that don’t fall into these camps are human detritus, lost in the wreck of their own failing brains.

As Henraek stumbles onto information that proves that the greatest tragedies of his life were part of a Tathadann coverup, the uneasy peace in Eitan City slowly starts heading towards rebellion. Henraek is gambling everything on learning the truth. Meanwhile, Walleus is poised to lose everything: his standing with the Tathadann party, and the family he has invested so much in building.

The focus on Walleus and his family surprisingly became a favorite part of the book for me. These scenes are filled with a warmth and humanity that I was surprised became some of my favorite parts of the book.

Korpon has built a sprawling post-war world that could have been told in any setting. He clearly relishes flexing his creative aspects by setting this very relevant drama in a world touched by the fantastic. But in true dystopian style, that fantastic is broken, just like the people that inhabit it.

Dan Malmon