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“Slow Burn” by Marlene Leach

Set 30 years into the future in a world where society is at a breaking point, this is a dark urban fantasy with a surprising twist in the tale.


It’s 2048 and the USA is not a pleasant place to be unless you are rich. The economy collapsed in 2028, broken by the greed of the corporates. The government imploded and has been replaced by an Orwellian dictatorshipcontrolled by the very corporates whose insatiability caused the collapse.


Inside the decaying cities, the masses are controlled. Schools have been replaced by individual learning programs, personal choice by “‘government testing” and each person’s future is shaped by their physical, intellectual and, above all, emotional responses. Anyone who doesn’t fit is kept in line with drugs, and rebellion is brutally suppressed.


Leah is a political activist, outspoken and subversive. She wrote political treatises attacking the government and calling for revolution. They took her away, tortured her to force a retraction and, when she refused, cut out her tongue.


Lydia is a woman with anger and alcohol problems. She has never recovered from the political masters taking Leah from her a year before. She sees no future without her partner and plans to end it all.


Kay is a child of her time; neglected by a comatose mother, bored by an inadequate and unchallenging education, damaged by her understanding of the corruption around her, she rails against the world.


When Kay arrives at Lydia’s door claiming that Leah is still alive and held in a Californian prison, she triggers an adventure that will take them across the ravaged country and into the wilderness to escape the eye of the political masters.


Slow Burnis a challenging read. Set in a dystopian future, combining adventure with political thriller, exploring emotional issues with deeply disturbed and abused women, it deals with some unusual, and at times uncomfortable issues.


It is well written and, of course, well edited—by the esteemed Katherine V. Forrest—but I found it an uneasy combination of themes.  The world Ms.Leach  has created is extremely well drawn, vivid, and evocative. As a political commentary,Slow Burn clearly has a statement to make about the dangers of corporate greed and a government thatchoses to appease and subsidize those corporates. But as an exploration of the psychological and sexual relationship between abused women, it felt wanting.


If you like dark urban fantasy, then Slow Burnmay well be a perfect read, but don’t expect an easy journey, despite the twist in the tale and the dreams of a happy ending.


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