Book review: The Pale by Clare Rhoden

About The Pale

The Outside can be a dangerous place.

But so can the inside.

It’s been years since the original cataclysm, but life has been structured, peaceful, and most of all uneventful in the Pale. The humachine citizens welcome the order provided by their ruler, the baleful Regent.

However, when one of their own rescues a human boy, Hector, from ravenous ferals on the Outside, their careful systems are turned upside down.

As Hector grows more and more human-strange, the citizens of the Pale grow uneasy.

What will happen when the Outside tries to get in?

My Thoughts

The Pale is science fiction set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia. Amid the destitution of the Broad Plain, the Pale itself is a policosmos, a walled colony ruled by a tyrannical Regent and filled with humachines – machine-augmented humans not known for their empathy. Tad, a humachine that cares a little too much, lets in a human child, Hector, when he arrives at the Pale’s gate. Outside, the caninis struggle to survive after a devastating earthquake destroys their habitat. The tribes and the Settlement also struggle for survival. Four groups, four distinct societal structures. What unfolds is a tightly woven plot that centres around a struggle for survival in the harshest of conditions.

Rhoden demonstrates tremendous descriptive powers and impressive world building, The Pale reminiscent of the intelligent science fiction novels of old. I am reminded of my favourite science fiction author, Phillip K. Dick. The Pale is filled with well-crafted and engaging characters – including dogs –  in what amounts to a classy read with an important moral message, making the reader question where we are heading and whose side we are on and what it means to be fully human. Add to this an elegant writing style which makes The Pale accessible to teens and adults alike, and I imagine it won’t be too long before this novel catches on big time.

The allegorical aspect of The Pale provides much fodder for contemplation in today’s pre-apocalyptic climate change reality, something all good high school teachers should relish were they to lay their hands on copies for their classrooms. In all, Rhoden has penned a feast for the speculative fiction aficionado.

 

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