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Review: Now. Then. To Come – Fenn Thornbot

Now. Then. To Come - Fenn Thornbot

Genre: Sci-Fi, Transfuturism

LGBTQ+ Category: Gay, Gender Fluid, Lesbian, Non-Binary

Reviewer: Lucy

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About The Book

Several hundred years after the Great Dying, a whole new way of organizing society has come about. There are no cages. What long ago were considered gender relations no longer are done in the same way. A gender binary doesn’t exist. People are free. Then, comes a hunger for power. And freedom is lost. Again.

Four major struggles set the scene as we meet Makk, a sixteen-year-old about to transition into adulthood. Now that Alvás is coming to an end, Makk and their fellow sixteen-year-olds embark on a long, dangerous journey to fetch water as a sacred rite of passage meant for self-discovery. But the scorching sun makes it unsafe to do anything during the day. So, for centuries, humans have turned to nocturnal ways of life. And the younguns must rely on each other to navigate the night. All the while, unable to telepathically mindspeak like the rest, Makk is marginalized by their peers and feels utterly alone. Until they meets Takver, a stranger from a shared past. Life seems to be improving for Makk. But, seemingly isolated raids by marauders—Kidnappers and pillagers of entire encampments. Murderers. Rapists—not only threaten the vulnerable waterfetchers and the entire Átmeneti people but force Makk and Takver into hiding.

While contemplating their past and future, together, Makk and Takver unexpectedly unearth a long-dormant technology that allows them to connect with ancestors and descendants across space-time. But soon they realize that the delicate balance of the present-past-future relies heavily on finding the missing journals of loved ones that they never knew existed. Makk will do whatever is necessary to reunite with their people and fight to maintain their way of life, even if it means putting their ancestors in the path of danger.

The Review

In Now. Then. To Come, author Fenn Thornbot creates a unique post-apocalyptic world. Throughout the history of the world, there have been many cataclysmic events, the most recent of which is recalled as the Great Dying. A pandemic swept across the world, decimating the populations of all countries. Technology was all but lost and is mostly viewed with fear and distrust. The detritus left by previous civilizations is sometimes recycled and repurposed, but is also considered artifacts to be used in the oral recounting of the events that led to the current conditions people find themselves existing in.

As societies collapsed and regenerated, new ideas of gender have come about in many of the smaller communities, freeing people to choose the gender that suits them based not on their reproductive organs, but their personal view of self. But some groupings have reverted to the original ideas of gender identity and gender roles, and are rigid in their interpretation of the gender binary.

At the outset of the story, Makk is a sixteen year old who is about to embark on the ritual gathering of water. In their village, children grow up agender. As part of their transition to adulthood, they choose their gender and their pronouns. Before the festival at which they announce their gender and pronouns, the sixteen year olds set out to complete a sacred rite by gathering water from the Old River.

Along the way, Makk and their friends encounter a violent group of marauders. While running away from a group of these threatening strangers, Makk meets Takver, who has been hiding out since the destruction of her village at the hands of the murderous brigands. Makk and Takver discover a shared history that they had been unaware of, and come across technology that they don’t understand that gives them insight into their past and hope for their futures.

The story was very well told, full of interesting characters and rich details. This is definitely speculative fiction – the author experiments with language and moves us forward and backward in time, dependent on what we have to learn. I’m very much a linear reader, preferring to move from point A forward to point B on the timeline, so this fluidity took some getting used to. I’m also typically not a fan of flashbacks, as they often seem needless. However, Thornbot makes it work for this book. There’s a chaotic nature to the time flow that is consistent with the events of the story.

There are so many excellent things about this book, including the variety of characters, their backgrounds and their respective villages, and the historical context included that gave insight as to how the current societies evolved. There’s also gripping intrigue, as Makk and Takver work to understand why the marauding bands are kidnapping people. They also have to determine their own place in this ever-changing world. Wondering what would happen next kept me engaged in the story, and on the edge of my seat.

Now. Then. To Come an interesting, engaging, and complex work of speculative fiction, with a great depth of meaning and a unique take on the societal impact of gender roles. I highly recommend giving this well-written story a try.

The Reviewer

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.

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