Unnatural Selection by Thomas Pryce is an unpublished science fiction novel comprised of 351 pages - 60 chapters organized into three parts. The story takes place in the future amidst environmental devastation where people are vulnerable to radiation, disease, starvation and cannibalism. Pacifica is a secret underwater civilization that serves as a safe haven for those survivors lucky enough to be a part of its small community. Our protagonist, Jesse, has been looking for an opportunity to escape the suffocating confines of Pacifica and it appears that his chance has arrived when he’s part of a team selected to brave the hazardous conditions on land in order to gather vital supplies. The odds are against the team as they face multiple threats including the sun’s lethal rays and desperate land dwellers that will do anything to stay alive. The team prepares for these threats as best they can but there’s no way they can prepare for what awaits them. A jarring discovery of unspeakable evil causes Jesse to separate from the rest of his team and transforms his mission into something that it seems no one could carry out let alone survive.
One of the neatest things about this book is the depiction of the wasteland our familiar world has become and the new way of life that’s born in the vivid descriptions of Pacifica. I easily sympathized with Jesse as he pined for the sun and open air after spending years in an underwater dome. His ache to be on dry land and his elation once that desire is realized makes him human and relatable while the other characters’ desire to stay put and live safely under water is equally realistic.
Unnatural Selection is jam-packed with information and suspense, to put it lightly. The science behind each crazy concept throughout the book is explained to the reader in mostly layman’s terms so that the situation surrounding the protagonist and his friends is believable. For me, that’s important.
The first half of the book is slower moving than the rest, putting necessary pieces of plot in place, foreshadowing the events to come and building suspense. While reading the opening chapters I enjoyed the way the author introduced new and totally foreign concepts as the norms of Pacifica – a world that is not that hard to imagine given our current real life environmental concerns.
The action comes steadily in Section Two (pg 112) and the climax begins its crescendo at page 241 with Jesse facing both tragic loss and dire circumstances. The adrenaline calms only slightly through the next few scenes but picks up again quickly and doesn’t quit until the very last chapter. The short epilogue alludes to the closure of some obvious loose ends while the reader’s pulse is still thumping from the explosive previous chapter. There is no decrescendo to wind down the adrenaline, making the end feel a little abrupt, but it’s a great segue to a sequel if the author chooses to write it. And judging by what I’ve read, he certainly doesn’t lack the imagination to do so.
The writer in me was very attracted to Pryce’s unique manipulation of prose – he has a clear talent for crafting metaphors and creating eloquent description that left me thinking “I wish I could do that!” I would compare his use of language to the likes of Cormac McCarthy but his voice is totally his own and contains an edge of playfulness even in the dark world he created for Unnatural Selection. I’m looking forward to seeing more from this author. Keep your eye out for Unnatural Selection. I’ve asked Tom to tell me when it’s published and available to readers, so when I get word I’ll let you know!