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Edge of Heaven by RB Kelly

Writing.ie | Speculative Fiction

By Paul Anthony Shortt

I received a copy of RB Kelly’s debut novel, Edge of Heaven, for review. I read the press release pack that came with it, and was intrigued by the idea of a dystopian tale of love challenged by epidemic sickness and social upheaval.

Being honest, I found the book tough going at first. The passages are longer than I’m used to, and it’s not completely evident at first how much a particular character or event will matter in the long run.

But I found my patience rewarded, and was pleased to discover that the events of the prologue, and Héra herself, whom we meet there, are very important not only to the main plot, but also to the reader’s understanding of the world. Where Kelly’s writing shines is in her world-building. Without giving in to infodumps or long tracks of exposition, she weaves a tapestry of the split-level city of Creo. Even before we learn the details of the heroine, Danae’s, life, we get a sense of how her life feels. RB Kelly grew up in Belfast in the Eighties, and you can definitely see the influence in how she constructs this bleak urban landscape.

But what really brought me in was Kelly’s use of themes and social issues. Creo is a cultural melting pot; ostensibly located in the wastelands of what was once France, but with obvious Mediterranean influences in names such as Héra. Even Danae’s dialect shows multi-cultural influence, as she refers t her mother as “Mam,” in a very Irish way.

Likewise, images of martial law being enforced, along with racial tensions between humans and the a-nauts, and advances in bio-technology, not only offer a twisted mirror on our own modern-day world, but also a disturbing look at what out future might become.

This is a key skill of a cyberpunk and dystopian author; to take what we fear and aspire to right now, and show us the dark places it might lead.

4/5 Stars

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