Review: Solomon the Peacemaker by Hunter Welles

Solomon the Peacemaker
Author: Hunter Welles
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
To Be Published: January 14, 2014
Publisher: Cowcatcher Press
Source: ARC via Netgalley
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository
Vincent Alan Chell is coy about answering the questions of his captor. He’d much rather talk about his dead wife, Yael, whose suicide somehow led him into captivity. Or Preacher, the bearded leader of a cult-like group that meets in the bowels of a church basement. Or the Peacemaker, the computer intelligence that has guaranteed peace between nations for half a century.

Chell describes a world where cultural norms have changed the way people interact with technology. Humanoid robots, though ubiquitous, are confined inside private homes, giving the impression that all is well with the world. Which may be the case. Yet Preacher and his group are convinced that humankind is already in the thrall of the Peacemaker. And they might be right.

Solomon the Peacemaker, Hunter Welles’s debut novel, explores the limits of technology, nonviolence, love, and memory in the twenty-second century as it races to its incredible conclusion.

Near the end of the 22nd century, world peace is more than just a default beauty pageant answer, it’s a reality maintained by a super-computer aptly named the Peacemaker. As with all good things, however, there are people mistrustful of society’s increasing reliance on technology and would do anything to oppose. Thus, Solomon the Peacemaker opens up with the interrogation of the suspected terrorist Vincent Alan Chell and the events centering around the suicide of his wife, Yael.
On all of them, I'd written, Be happy.
As if it were that simple.
What a brute.
Even knowing the general premise of the book, it was very difficult for me to really engross myself in the story, especially in the first half. There are some books that you can just dive into from page one without knowing a thing about it, and Solomon the Peacemaker is not one of them. Instead, it’s more like being shoved into the deep end of the pool when you haven’t learned the basics of swimming yet. 22nd Century Boston – and the rest of the United States of (North) America for that matter - isn’t at all what we’re familiar with and it takes a while to understand terms like nodes, servods, and NONLET.

However, if you’re able to push through those first few chapters, it’s smooth sailing from there. Most of the story is focused on Vincent and Yael’s involvement in a cultish following of people who oppose the Peacemaker lead by a charismatic man who is simply known as Preacher. Each member, including Vincent and his wife, has their own reason for opposing the Peacemaker, whether it is political, moral, or personal. The book is unafraid to delve into politics and religions and the ending left me comatose for a few hours as I started to question my own beliefs and everything else that I had just read.

At first, however, it took me a while to really get into the book. Aside from the confusing beginning, the format of the story didn’t really help either. The entire book is given to you as a series of interview sessions between Vincent and his interrogator. While it’s a unique version of the first-person narrative, it comes off as very expositional. In regards to “show, don’t tell”, it ended up being more “tell” instead of “show”. It also interrupted the reading flow as the interviewer’s comments are excluded, forcing me to pause and guess what their questions might have been to make Vincent’s responses make sense. This got better in the second half, though, when there was less input from the interviewer.
    He was a very vain man.

    His vanity never bothered me.

    Because it showed he was human.
I also found it really difficult to like and empathize with Vincent at the beginning. There were certain prejudices hinted at that made me believe that if Vincent existed in our time right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a bigot. Luckily, my dislike for him lessened as the story continued and I began to understand his plight. There were times, he even reminded me of Snowman in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. Vincent and Snowman were both just laid-back men trying to live their lives in a messed-up dystopian future. I actually really enjoy that element in books like Solomon the Peacemaker and Oryx and Crake. In most dystopian books, I often find the world-building lacking, and I constantly question why a certain thing is the way it is. In these two books, they build upon some of the legitimate fears our current society holds. Today, topics like genetically engineered food, eugenics, and our dependence on technology unsettle most people on a moral or ethical ground. Hunter Welles and Margaret Atwood utilize these concerns to create a dark world that we can easily imagine happening.

Overall, the story was engrossing, and I especially loved the end which I found fitting for this tale. The style of the book may make it difficult for people to get into at first, but once you get past the beginning, you’ll be hooked. (Rating: 3/5)


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