Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan
Publisher - Gollancz
Release Date - Out Now
Price - £16.99 Paperback
Pearl is an angel. She works for the Resistance - an organisation dedicated to improving the world by stealth; but tiny; incremental acts of kindness.
But Pearl also has wings. They blossom at moments of stress. And she is strong; an extraordinary terrifying strength capable of breaking the fabric of reality. The Resistance can't account for that, nor for Pearl's mysterious origins. All anyone know is that she appeared in a New York junkyard in the early 21st Century. Truth is even Pearl doesn't know what she is, let alone who she is.
Now she is on a pell-mell chase across the world. In pursuit of a killer wearing another man's body . This killer carries a briefcase that is a ragged hole in the Universe. A global conspiracy revolves around it. The nature of reality is determined by it. Pearl has got to get the briefcase back - no matter how shocking its contents turn out to be.
My physical copy of Occupy Me is quite thin (less than 300 pages) but a bit like the main character is is packed with beautiful depth. Reading this is taking a soaring dive out of a plane listening to fast beautiful music that has some pointed comments on our world. One of the most intriguing stories I've read this year.
In the near future we find a lot if the initial story contrasts Pearl's quest with Dr Sorle's (an African Dr trying to improve his world) interactions with Austen Stevens a cruel billionaire businessman. We soon see all three characters are linked although none are quite too sure how and into the mix is a superpowered assassin who has his own agenda. The story bounces across the world before a tight finale that matches the North Sea oil fields with the end of the universe.
I love stories where the reader has to work and Sullivan doesn't fall into the trap of someone having to do pure exposition. What appears a very confusing world and a mystery starts to make sense and you buy into the concept of hidden dimensions and the ability to lift yourself into them. At the same time this novel examines consequences both Pearl and Dr Sorle's working out who they are. Products of their environment or do they have a greater ability to fight against their upbringing and those powerful enough to stop them? I love the concept of the Resistance a secret group that performs kind deeds with the the view that the overall small impacts of being nice to someone or helping them on a bad day prevents the nastier side of humanity wracking havoc. Capitalism and its ability to wreck countries and lives is the darker force serving empathy here and Stevens just wants to make money forever its s very moral battle.
The writing here is beautiful a villain is said to have a 'Death Star of a mind' and right at the end there is a wonderful passage where Pearl provides her thoughts on love. This book has a lot of passion and love for what people can do. Pearl is gentle, kind but easily frustrated and when you're very powerful that creates waves....or opens up planes you're travelling in! There is in the story a great Scottish vet Alison who brings some nice humour as well as grounds our more powerful leads.
This was my first Sullivan and I think I want to now read all her other books. SF can I find lack humanity in favour of pure concepts and this novel rattling through time and space manages to shine with a positive look at fighting against empathy and the loss of hope. Having now read all the Clarkes (a few reviews to follow this week) this is my favourite. If you want your mind widened and a reminder why we resist give it a go!