Antigone lives in the last city of an irradiated landscape. It’s perpetually dusty, the population is dwindling and if you have a viable uterus you’re going to reproduce, whether you like it or not. Your chances of surviving childbirth are 50-50.
When you die in this world, your ichor is extracted from you and stored in the Archives. Would-be parents wander the Archives and make their choices, the Archivist implants the combined cells (complete with edited genes) and, hey presto, designer babies.
Antigone and her siblings, Polyneikes, Eteocles and Ismene, aren’t like everyone else, having been made the old fashioned way.
We were unique among our people, pieced together from whatever random combination of genes our parents provided. Table-scrap children.
This novella is a dystopian retelling of Sophocles’ play. Because I wasn’t already familiar with the story, I found a summary to read before I started this book. While it helped in comparing the two, it also spoiled the ending for me. I could have easily followed this story, even if I hadn’t done any homework before tackling it.
If you do know anything about Antigone, you’ll know this isn’t a happy book. It’s tragedy, grief and the abuse of power.
Doomed from the start, I found myself thinking. All of us.
I sometimes find multiple perspectives distracting and that was the case here for the first few chapters. However, once I figured out who everyone was, I began to enjoy hearing from the different characters: Antigone, Polyneikes, Eurydice, Ismene, Kreon and Haemon.
I would have liked to have explored this world more. I wanted to meet the Archivist. I wanted to understand why this pocket of land was currently habitable when the rest of the planet wasn’t. I would have liked to have gotten to know the characters better. Realistically, though, achieving the level of detail I craved would have pushed this way outside of novella territory.
The themes explored here lined up well with what I’ve read about the original story. I loved Antigone’s fierce loyalty to her family and her resistance against the status quo. I’m not sure what Sophocles would have made of this book (there’s a spaceship!) but I enjoyed this read.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for the opportunity to read this novella.
Once Upon a Blurb
Outside the last city on Earth, the planet is a wasteland. Without the Archive, where the genes of the dead are stored, humanity will end.
Antigone’s parents – Oedipus and Jocasta – are dead. Passing into the Archive should be cause for celebration, but with her militant uncle Kreon rising to claim her father’s vacant throne, all Antigone feels is rage.
When he welcomes her and her siblings into his mansion, Antigone sees it for what it really is: a gilded cage, where she is a captive as well as a guest.
But her uncle will soon learn that no cage is unbreakable. And neither is he.