Genre: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
LGBTQ+ Category: Gay, Non-Binary, Trans MTF
About The Book
The Bolvar Union provides everything a good citizen needs, only asking one thing in return: total devotion to the State.
Teenage best friends Adan Testa and Bo Shen have other ideas. They plan an unlikely heist to earn their way over the wall, escaping Bolvar before serving their mandatory five years in the Bolvar Union Defense Force.
But Adan doesn’t know he possesses a secret talent that no one has seen in the five centuries since the First Explorers colonized Neska. And when the Union discovers Adan’s hidden gift, they’ll do anything and everything they can to discover his secret. Even if it kills him.
Founder’s Mercy takes us to Bolvar Union, located on the planet Neska, where we initially meet Adan Testa and Bo Shen and get a sense of the dystopian culture in which they live. This isn’t a fast-paced action novel where one explosion follows another. It’s is a well-crafted, steadily paced tale that takes us through the lives of the main characters and the others they meet along the way.
The author, Owen Lach, avoids the information dump that sometimes happens when world-building by alternating between accounts of current day events and snippets of personal logs of the founders of Neska’s society, who were colonizers from another planet. The journal entries are short enough that they don’t disrupt the flow of the story, and cleverly provide details and insight that would’ve been nearly impossible to disclose any other way.
The characters are complex and well-developed, but have some mystery in their backgrounds. Adan and Bo met in a group home for orphaned youth. They’ve been friends for a few years and have concocted a scheme to avoid being conscripted into serving their mandatory five years in the military. But as the story develops, the whys of how Adan and Bo came to be alone in the world turn out to be more integral to their current situation, and their future, than either of them could’ve guessed.
This is an excellent beginning to the series. There is a little bit of romance, many friendships, and some intrigue. Not everyone turns out to be who they seemed. There are some betrayals and some disappointments for the main characters, but not for the readers. The story is well-crafted and flows beautifully, taking the twists and turns of the plot with ease and without leaving the reader confused.
It is also a masterful example of physical descriptions, and how they can give us enough detail to be useful, without dictating every feature of a character. The author starts with generalities, like hair color or height, but never gender. The reader forms an image before the author discloses that the character uses the pronouns he/him, she/her, or they/them. The author has imbedded this into the culture of their world, so that it’s a natural part of the characters’ interactions. And, for the many things that are wrong in Bolvar Union, homophobia, transphobia, and even sexism aren’t among them. It’s a dystopian setting with some utopian aspects.
This was the first novel I’ve read by author Owen Lach, but I’m looking forward to continuing the series, and seeing what else this author has written!
I’m an avid reader who loves pretty much all genres except math textbooks. As a kid, my parents exposed me to everything from fairies, hobbits, and dragons to the biographies of interesting people around the world, interspersed with poetry, plays, and music. Into adulthood, I spent a lot of years with my nose buried in various textbooks. Now, I read whatever grabs my fancy.