Today I have a review for REVELATION by J.H. Moore. It’s a prequel novella to The Malfunction Trilogy. This science fiction story occurs on a near-future Earth that is uninhabitable. Humans now live in the subsurface where the government controls all aspects of life. But Cowl seeks to break free of that life and discovers a secret government program that turns humans into fighting machines.
This review is brought to you by my participation in the Speculative Fiction Indie Novella Championship (SFINCS). SFINCS, pronounced “sphinx”, is a yearly competition to recognize, honor, and celebrate the talent and creativity present in the indie community. It’s a sister competition to both SPFBO and SPSFC, and it highlights greatness in the novella format in all areas of speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, horror, etc.). I am part of Team Behind the Musings. You can find out more about us here.
Author: J.H. Moore
Series: The Malfunction Trilogy prequel
Age Category: Adult
Publish Date: April 22, 2017
Print Length: 123
With everyone he cares about either dead or long absent, Cowl Coven has lost interest in life. Despite the endless distractions of a high-profile job as a programmer in the Hub and nightly runs into the chasm below for the black market, he still finds himself looking for a way out. When a hacked piece of data reveals what seems to be human life on the desolate, alien-infested surface of Earth, he thinks he might have just found it. What he finds instead is secret government project that has destroyed the lives of thousands. Human beings are being mangled and equipped with mechanical devices that rob them of all self-agency. Cowl is forced to decide if he will hold on to a safe life he doesn’t really want or if he’s going to accept the danger to save one of the victims.
REVELATION by J.H. Moore is the prequel to The Malfunction Trilogy. This reads well as a standalone and I didn’t feel as though it was necessary to read the trilogy to understand this novella. I think perhaps if I had read the trilogy beforehand I would’ve more quickly picked up the setting. But, again, it is not required reading.
REVELATION occurs on what I understand is Earth in the not-too-distant future. The surface is uninhabitable, so humans live in the subsurface. The government basically controls all aspects of human life from one’s job to who one marries and subsequently mates with. Cowl confidently describes himself has a genius at his tech “day” job, but is also a runner of illicit items in the underbelly of the colony. However, Cowl has grown disillusioned with the system and wants out regardless of whether that means death. Thanks to his hacking he not only discovers footage of human life on the surface, but he also finds evidence of the government co-opting humans’ bodies as fighting machines.
Overall, I enjoyed the writing style in REVELATION by J.H. Moore. There were a couple of name drops that I found anachronistic (e.g., Stonewall Jackson, president names) simply because this story occurs in the future. In this context I would think there might be other contemporaneous names at the forefront of Cowl’s mind. I appreciated Cowl’s characterization and backstory. The pace of his introduction and way of life to the reader was good, if a tad bit slow for my preferences. While I enjoyed learning about Cowl’s situation, I felt it was a little bit at the expense of the plot reveal. By the time the reader learns about Cowl’s discoveries, the novella is near completion. However, given it’s a prequel, I suppose this makes sense.
In summary, REVELATION is a great novella for those who enjoy dystopian science fiction set on a destroyed Earth. The pacing is comfortable and the story isn’t weighed down by technical descriptions. And it sets the reader up for an intriguing segue into the trilogy.
Content warnings: suicidal ideation (minor), death of a parent (historical), suicide (historical), blood
Reading format: Kindle e-book