Travel Documents 03: Nyota’s Tyrannosaur

 

Nyota’s Tyrannosaur

Stant Litore
Genre: Biopunk SF, dystopian

 Link To Book

The Dust Cover Copy

Fighting for survival on the world where tyrannosaurs are grown…

When Nyota wakes in the middle of a forest inside an artificial world, she knows she’s in trouble. Her trainer and sister athletes are nowhere to be seen, the airlock to the shuttle bay doesn’t respond to her commands, and the night forest is loud with the screeches of atrociraptors and ravenous tyrannosaurs.

Stranded inside the world where massive dinosaurs are grown for the arenas, she will face many perils — the hunger of nocturnal predators, the crash of starvation, and the devouring rot of a bioweapon unleashed inside the tyrannosaur world while war in space rages just outside.

But Nyota is ready. Inhabited by entire ecosystems of nanites, trained for strength and speed and elegance, capable of feats that would leave others broken on the forest floor, Nyota can handle anything. Anything, that is, except the sudden rush of forgotten memories into her heart. Anything but the realization of who she really is.

Luckily she won’t have to face that alone. Not with this tyrannosaur egg hatching beside her…

The Deets

The Scene

Worldbuilding

This is one of those stories that envelops you from the moment your eyes run over the page. And for seamless introduction to a strange new world, the opening of this book can’t be beat:

With the elegance of a page out of The Art of War, this entry passage has already enmeshed you in a world of watchful cameras, painfully unequal power structures, and genetically modified entertainment. And that’s all before you meet the protagonist.

This is one of the signatures of Stant Litore’s writing: through his use of language, he wraps you in moments. He turns a concept that would be clunky, camp or just plain weird in other hands into something as natural as feeling the stretch of your own muscles when you move. His focus on the personal aspect of tech in the lives of his characters gives the entire world an intuitive gravity of reality.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention the science used in here rocks? The genetic modifications to animals and plants fit the varied terraformed environments discussed in the book, and the technological augmentation made to the main character has an appropriate metabolic cost in the form of calorie requirements.

But Litore isn’t writing hard sci-fi: no info-dumps on what that thing that jumped out of the water or buzzed in the bushes was. Occasionally he even goes out on a limb and throws in names for animal species you have absolutely no reference for. Here, that actually works, because you’re already in the place: salt spray in your face or the smell of loam in your nose. At that point, a reader’s mind runs over the phrase ‘you will defend your family when the soar-whales leap over your boat’, says ‘soar-whale? Well of course there are alien whales here,’ and pictures whatever they like to fit their dream of the seas on Titan. There’s a magic in world building that leaves you a little room to do some of the dreaming yourself.

The Crowd

Characterization

And then there’s Nyota. There’s Jaguar. There’s a girl so honed by the whims of others that she has to be forgotten on a world filled with monsters to remember who she is.

The revelation of each character in the story goes on through Nyota’s eyes, which has a wonderful and sometimes painful result. As Nyota grows in herself, each of the other characters grows and takes on new dimensions of complexity in her memories of them. Mai Changying begins as a stern trainer, respected and feared in Nyota’s mind. She grows into something evil, a purveyor of punishment, a jail-keeper with poison in her hands and steel in her eyes. Ultimately, she is only a woman, as helpless in the face of the system that created them both as Nyota was and just as determined.

Nyota’s own father goes through a similar transformation: from simple memory of comfort to an inspiration, a bereft victim, a leader, then a horror. Eventually he too is only a man doing what he can.

I would have liked to see a little more personality in some of Nyota’s remembered competitor-sisters, but maybe the sheer eeriness of their depersonalization serves the story better.

The Moves

Plot

If you enjoyed Cloud Atlas, you’re going to like Nyota’s Tyrannosaur. It has a similar blend of high dreams and gritty reality. Most of this story goes on inside Nyota’s head as she figures out how to build herself a life. Sound boring? Not a chance. With the clear poignancy that cuts like a knife and cleanses like water, we watch this girl come through one shattering revelation after another and grow with each. But damn she’s going to kick and scream along the way!

Nyota’s higher musings are grounded nicely in the very visceral things she thinks about as she fights to survive: I hate the taste of this meat, I love this tree, I stink and I need a bath, I’m lost and that pisses me off, I’m going to be eaten by the nanites inside me if I don’t find food right f$%# now. This keeps the story real and allows the dreams she has a solid foundation on which to stand.

The slow realizations about the culture Nyota belonged to are a powerful but not preachy social commentary, reminding us that words and concepts can be the wool pulled over our eyes. In this book we watch slaves worship Lady Liberty and cheer when blood is shed on her altars.  In this culture, people destroy one another in the name of the Goddess Love. It’s a powerful image.

Through Nyota’s musings, we also get a clear look at what we really are as a species when all our tech and toys and social norms are stripped away. We’re hungry. We’re frightened. And we’re longing for something or someone to share life with. We need to bond so badly that we’ll form emotional ties to anything: a tree, a spear, a dinosaur. We want to love.

It’s easy to forget the deep urges that drive us to do all that is good and all that is evil, but this book reminds us. At rock bottom, humans possess just five things: Fear, resolve, anger, wit, and empathy. By the end of the story, Nyota holds these things in balance and has finally grabbed ahold of her own life with both hands.

The Lingo

Writing style

Lyrical, poetic, dreaming and deep. I couldn’t ask for better. I’m a sucker for poetry, and Litore gets me every time.

For example:

“You are a paradox. You try to escape the clawed grip of your ancestors—their violence, their beliefs, their urges. Yet at the same time you reach into the past with your own desperate fingers. You resurrect beasts—giants of tooth and horn and claw—because you both yearn for what is gone and you realize that what seems gone is not truly so. The past is not gone. Fight the chains of the past as you will, you cannot break them. You cannot be free until you realize the past is not a cage to shatter, but a part of you, bone and blood and sinew, that you must master and learn to use, lest it master you. You carry the past in your blood, shaping you and driving you, as one of Liberty’s daughters carries nanites: the past is in you. So decide if you will use the past or be used by it.”

*happy reviewer sigh*

 

The Vibe

Overall Rating

I was glad to write this review, because it let me stay in this world a little longer. This book needs to be on the shelf of anyone who dreams about the future, the past, or the possibilities. Give the little kid who loved dinosaurs and space ships in you a treat.

Want to read more? He’s got a free e-book out too. https://dl.bookfunnel.com/bb0zym837h