Review Blog

Sep 10 2019

Where the river runs gold by Sita Brahmachari

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Orion, 2019. ISBN: 9781510105416. 340p; p/b.
Shifa has to protect herself and her brother Themba as she finds out the unfortunate truth about her parentage and the controlling government she lives under in a world supposedly ravaged by an incredible storm. Characters are deep and well developed, with even the seemingly most antagonistic characters having a human side to them. The treatment of Themba's implicit neuro-divergence is fairly respectful. The plot is largely character-based at first, focusing on interactions in an oppressive society, but pivots to a sort of thriller action with escapes and secrets towards the end, in a way that is interesting and doesn't feel jarring, but the conclusion does feel a bit rushed and insubstantial.
The novel tackles a variety of themes, and handles them largely well. There is examination of the expression of creative freedom under an oppressive government as people struggle under ARK's 'freedom farms'. The populace is controlled through complete isolation from and lies about a better outside world, but people fight back with stories and artwork. Treatment of people with neuro-divergence and mental illness is also looked at, as Themba struggles to cope on the oppressive farms and everyone tries to deal with the old lady on the farm. At the core of the plot though, is environmentalism, with the world presumed to be after a mass extinction event and the protection of what natural life remains.
The novel takes place in the fictional 'Kairos Lands' with a vaguely futuristic technology level after recovering from a cataclysm. The setting is well established with some interesting, but not too intrusive, world building.
Vincent Hermann

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