3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
In the early twenty-first century, Total Meltdown led to the dissolution of the former United States of America, now seen by NewAmericans as a historical oddity. Reduced to half of its former size, NewAmerica relies on global trade and the contribution of off-worlders, human immigrants to other planets. Under the guidance of Jackson, Tripler, Clarke, and Stewart, the four political icons of the new world, society has passed through major cultural, economic, educational, and religious transformations.
Draff Rob Brie [Septican-Smite] is born and raised in Emory, one of the communities in the new government capital, Chicago, concatenated in NewSpeak to “Chica.” According to the new rules, he spends only the first two years of his life with his biological parents. Immediately afterward, he becomes a member of a “social family” or “nest” and is assigned a PerCust, a personal state custodian. Together with Simi Andry Jan [Jan-Rho] and Billy Fran Frunk [Tordon-Cass], Draff forms “Trio Safe Prime” or “The Trinity.” Both his gay friend Billy and mysterious Simi accept him as their leader and fight for his love. Endowed with an extraordinary sense of smell, Draff has always felt different from everybody else. Closer to Billy but drawn to Simi, he needs to figure out who he is and what he wants for his future.
The Edge of Madness by Raymond Gaynor is a sequel to Total Meltdown, written in co-authorship with William Maltese. I particularly enjoyed the worldbuilding in this socio-political techno-thriller; it is reminiscent of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The author does a great job of describing the birth and development of NewAmerica. Although we can read the novel as a standalone, the frequent references to the previous reconstruction years made me want to read the prequel.
Raymond Gaynor touches on many sensitive issues in our current world. From this perspective, the book is thought-provoking and invites us to see things in a different light. For example, NewAmericans promote an education system based on cooperation and critical thinking rather than individualism and competitiveness. As a result, graduate learners who could apply what they learned to real-life situations were in far greater demand over those simply acquiring a diploma. In terms of religion, I loved the description of Wicca, the new universal religion. Any member could join, leave, and rejoin the religious community at any time.
The novel primarily focuses on Draff’s childhood, adolescence, and early maturity years. For those who enjoy reading coming-of-age books, The Edge of Madness is also a story of self-discovery and spiritual growth. Due to his inquisitive mind, Draff has no problems learning about the history and culture of NewAmerica. His many names reflect the new social organization: he is “Septican-Smite” when first introduced to someone, “Brie” whenever he does something wrong, “Rob” when he is good to his friends and acquaintances, and “Draff” to those with whom he is intimate. Raymond Gaynor skillfully sketches the image of a strong young man who needs to come to terms with his special powers and sexual drives. Depending on his choices, he could develop into either a freak or a synesthetic savant capable of melding his senses.
Even if I was fascinated by the unique worldbuilding, I often had to re-read some of the explanations about the technological wonders of the new world (“ContraSpray,” “Eugitors,” “CandyShades,” “CandyCable,” “Forty-Seven Suits,” or “T-rips”). I know that all these inventions were an essential part of NewAmerica, but I wish the explanations were less descriptive and elaborate. In addition, the constant switch from one name to another for the same character was a bit confusing at times. Since I also noticed more than ten editing errors, I have decided to give Raymond Gaynor’s novel 3 out of 4 stars. Mainly punctuation mistakes and typos, the errors were not highly distracting, though. Some chapters have an LGBT slant or describe a new religion worshipping Mother Goddess, so those bent on dogmatic religious norms might have an issue with this aspect. There are no sexual scenes per se, but Draff’s relationships with both Billy and Simi often display an inherent eroticism. All in all, I am recommending this novel to fans of post-apocalyptic fiction who are interested in social and political transformations, technological changes, sexual awakening, and spiritual development.
The Edge of Madness
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon