My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Image a friend created to your specification who will love you unconditionally. Now image that friend is also a genetically designed bodyguard and assassin with superhuman strength. This is the world of S.J. Kincaid’s The Diabolic. This book has elements of Blade Runner and Westworld with all the politics and intrigue of a royal court in space. The Diabolic is dark, brutal, fast-paced, complex, otherworldly storytelling and I LOVED it!
It’s the distant future and space travel and colonization have been the norm for generations. There are machines that do just about everything and machine to fix those machines when they break down. Humans no longer seek to learn about the technology that runs the world around them. Sidonia is the daughter of a senator who still believes in science and the pursuit of knowledge, which makes him a heretic. When the emperor learns of his illegal amassing of knowledge, the emperor demands that the senator’s daughter Sidonia be sent to the royal court both as a guest and as insurance that her father will stay in line. But instead of sending his only child to be a political prisoner at court, the senator sends Nemesis, his daughter’s Diabolic- a genetically created bodyguard and assassin.
Kincaid smartly devotes a good amount of the book to establish the relationship between Sidonia and her genetically constructed imposter. We get to see just how inhuman Nemesis is and how much Sidonia treats her like a beloved sister despite of this. When the story separates Nemesis and Sidonia, sending Nemesis into guaranteed danger, you care about them both. Nemesis is aware that her prime directive is to ensure the safety of Sidonia at all costs. But as Nemesis must fake being human, something unexpected begins to happen- she starts to gain humanity. This is where The Diabolic shifts from clever storytelling into something far more complex.
The Diabolic demonstrates masterful world-building which includes a futuristic religious and political structure. But what I found most impressive is Kincaid’s treatment of Nemesis, who is cruel, brutal, inhumane, yet somehow very human. Kincaid get the reader to question exactly what it means to be human. Nemesis’s story goes places I didn’t expect but I willingly went along for the ride.
4.5 out of 5.