Pandora’s Razor, by Ray Strong
Please Note: My usual Likes section will from now on be the Positive Elements section. Consequently, my usual Dislikes section shall henceforth be known as the Negative Elements section.
Hey guys, welcome back to another Bookish Beyond review.
How have you been?
Today, we’re reviewing Pandora’s Razor, an insightful science fiction novel by Ray Strong.
So, if you’ve got your favourite drink to hand and are all settled in, let’s begin.
Meriel Hope, once orphaned from an attack on her home ship, longs to return to the stars. On Haven, she and her partner John have made a home with his two daughters, however, an increasing amount of refugees are turning up, seeking the freedom that Haven promises and they won’t be able to feed everyone.
When their Haven farm is attacked, Meriel suspects someone is specifically targeting her, to silence her claims about the attack on The Princess, which orphaned her and her sister. In response, she plans to reach out to the one man she hates most, General Khanag. With his help, she hopes to expose the corruption of the Archtrope, an ideologue who seeks control over others. However, some powerful people have other plans for Miss Hope: they want her out of the way so their terrible plans can come to fruition.
Many characters appeared throughout this story. As such, I shall only explore the ones which I consider to be key players in the overall plot.
Firstly, let me introduce Meriel Hope, a courageous woman who seeks to bring the orphans of The Princess together, to keep them safe. Over the course of the story, she proved to be an intensely caring woman, who would do anything for those she loves, even if it meant risking her life. However, she also sought to return to space, to avoid being a target for powerful people with corrupt motivations.
Haunted by grotesque childhood memories, Meriel has since developed PTSD, with flashbacks she tries desperately to keep at bay. She was a brave woman, who fought for others at every turn, especially children as she could relate to the danger she faced when she was younger.
All in all, Meriel stood up for what she believed in, even if it meant risking herself. Her resilience and determination made her a hero worth rooting for at every opportunity. There are few characters I have read about who have her strength of conviction, bar those like Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games.
Secondly, comes John, Meriel’s partner. At first glance, I thought he would be a cautious man, never one for taking risks like Meriel. However, I soon found myself proven wrong. Throughout the story, John shows himself to be a loving and devoted father, as well as a brave and honourable man when it came to fighting for his daughters and for the freedom of others. He was a good strategic thinker and was able to negotiate his way through many difficult scenarios, which could have proved far more dangerous if he hadn’t intervened. Overall, he was an admirable and highly likable character, despite the fact that he didn’t take centre stage.
Thirdly, we have Elizabeth (Liz), Meriel’s sister. She provided an interesting contrast to her sister without being completely different. For instance, Elizabeth was passionate and would not put up with nonsense from others. At times, she was blunt and matter of fact in her speech. At other times, she was definitely more impulsive, a true risk taker if ever I’ve seen one. I loved her sense of resourcefulness and her blunt humour. In addition, her level of stubbornness and the sheer intensity of her will quickly garnered my respect.
Next, we turn to a secondary antagonist, General Khanag, the man responsible for the deaths of Meriel’s parents. At first, we learn that Khanag is recruiting followers to The Archtrope’s ideological cause and that he believes deeply in it himself. Anyone who refuses to be a part of The Archtrope’s new world vision, dies.
General Khanag quickly proved himself to be a callous man, ‘cleansing the spaceways of miscreants.’ However, he soon became more complex as I learned more about his past and what he’d lost at the hands of others. It was no wonder he’d want to believe in the promise of a better future. Additionally, his belief that The Archtrope saved him from a life of drugs and destitution made his devotion to such a man even more understandable. From hating him at first, to understanding his story, I came to generally sympathise with Khanag, something I never would have believed at the story’s start.
Finally, we examine The Archtrope himself, a man who we only meet a few times over the course of the story, and not for long at that. He acts as the main antagonist in the story, attempting to remake space in his own personal vision. Over time, he has weaved a deceptive narrative through media outlets, to gather supporters for his new world vision. He was a powerful and corrupt man, who gave in to his more animalistic desires and seemed to possess a volatile temper. His cold and calculating manner made him a dislikable character at best, with an immoral and self-absorbed way of living that displayed clear delusion on his part. He believed himself to be some sort of God and therefore deserving of as much power as he could accumulate. Men like him are a danger in any world, fantasy or not, and I had no issues with imagining him being taken down by anyone brave enough to stand against him.
Pandora’s razor was a wild and adventurous tale, which had many positive elements. I’ve included a bulleted list below, to demonstrate such points.
- The shifting perspectives of key characters (such as Meriel and General Khanag) allow the reader to experience the story from multiple sides of the same issue, to get a greater scope of the conflicts being explored.
- The world-building was good and focused on specific areas such as the different factions living in space and their relationships with each-other. Additionally, the backstory for the current conflict was gradually revealed to the reader, providing much needed understanding.
- The tension-building was well executed, with several close shaves. A good example of this is the hydroponics scene, where several important side characters are in immediate danger with no apparent way of escape.
- The overall story was very detailed, with a series of complex alliances and conspiracies, etc.
- The ending was satisfying and tied up all loose ends. I’ll admit, while at first I found the story a bit confusing to piece together, by the end, I didn’t want it to finish. I had become close to the main characters and their striving to do the right thing and found that I wanted my journey with them to continue.
- An interesting appendix at the end of the book provides some intriguing fictional history related to the setting, as well as research on the topic of freedom, tyranny, and fighting against dictatorships.
Although the positive elements of the story overshadowed any negatives, there were a few things that I disliked.
- It felt like a lot of information was crammed in toward the start of the story, so initially I wasn’t sure what was happening and what the main character’s true goal was.
- There were a lot of characters who rarely appeared in the story but that had their own point of view. This made it difficult to know who was truly important to the story at large. I understand that this was likely done to give a wider scope of the conflict being explored, however, this element of the story felt poorly done to me. I feel I could have more readily identified and become close with the key characters if less points of view were used (maybe just two, or three tops.)
As always, a review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning some of the key things I took away from the book. While it was difficult to whittle down the things that caught my attention, I eventually managed to settle on five key quotes that each moved me in some way.
1) ‘Once in an age, the arc of history bends around the wheel of one committed person who, acting from his or her own virtuous interests, changes the course of humanity- an individual who grips their share of civilisation with both hands and will not give it up.’
2) ‘People will believe anything if it’s repeated enough.’
3) ‘Just like your news feeds. You create a reality with just enough truth to be believed, and others must organise within it.’
4) ‘Perfection isn’t possible with humans; corruption always lurks- The more people who know the facts, the better justice is served.’
5) ‘You’re not the cause of the evil that others do. Never believe that.’
Throughout my reading experience, Pandora’s Razor proved to be an adventurous tale of past pain, false narratives, and above all hope; for resisting the tyranny of corrupt individuals. It was a journey which saw the main characters fighting not only for freedom, but for the truth to prevail.
Furthermore, the corruption of systems designed to serve the interests of citizens, felt relatable to our modern day existence. Additionally, the idea that one individual can have the power to shatter the insidious plans of the corrupt, ends the story on a hopeful note.
My Rating: 5 stars.
Recommended to: lovers of perceptive science fiction, which explores complex issues.
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