• Book Review: 'The Kota: Book 1' by Sunshine Somerville

    The future of dystopian America is dark –both evil and obscure. Two major phenomenons have changed the world: The incurable DRK virus and the mystical rifts to other dimensions that have ripped the skies. Destinies are foretold, and carried through time. Prophecies from the Kota's texts are like puzzle pieces that could form Earth's greatest hope. The heroic Marked Warriors must band together to fight the Dominion and its tyrannical leader, Cruelthor. There's a lot to ponder in the first book of Sunshine Somerville's science fiction saga The Kota.

    Philosophical views about destinies and the grand purpose of mankind that shape Kota's story, are introduced early. The first five chapters serve as a prologue describing different prophecies and establishing the concepts of time-travel and dimensions. The virus has spread and the skies are torn. The Kota –an enigmatic organization– seems to know the meaning of all these strange phenomenons. Troy Kondoya confronts his brother Lee to get some answers for the government, and he learns about the prophecies that tell their purpose in the future: Their children would be "marked" as saviors to cleanse the evil that floods the world. Seeing them interpret the Kota's prophetic passages is a fun challenge. Somerville's prose flows smoothly so it's easy to keep track of the events when they are set years apart. You can see how the world has changed. Weird outcasts with mutant-genes called Misfits of Breeding (M.O.B.) are wild; They remind me of the Remades in China MIeville's Bas Lag trilogy.

    Cruelthor is recruiting the most gifted ones for his will, and one of them is an assassin who never misses. She could also dematerialize into space dimensions. At first she tries to follow Cruelthor's plans to fight the rebels, then you see her become involved with other superheroes. They're similar to the heroes in Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. And the story gets more exciting when they come together, and rise against the Dominion. Bullseye deserves a more original name because she really stands out. She feels trapped by fate as she questions her role in the greater scheme:
    What I don't understand is why my life had to go this way. What was the point of all I suffered? Was there one? I don't see why the pain I suffered or the pain I caused needed to be a part of the grand purpose you're always talking about. Couldn't my life have gone differently and still brought me to where I need to be today? Nothing about this path I've taken seems right, and I'm surrounded all the time by reminders of that old life...
    Even though there's time travel, she emphasizes the truth that some futures cannot be altered. And the major plot elements feel inevitable as the characters' actions are directed by the prophecies. This aspect seems to dilute the value of free-will. The heroes feel that they're obligated to fulfill their purpose instead of being motivated to fight.

    With an intense conflict in a classic dystopian setting and a cool mix of science fiction elements such as time travel and dimensions, The Kota is an enjoyable experience. Somerville may not be focused in giving these elements greater depth, but she preserves the fun in her dense prose while raising philosophical questions about the future and free-will.

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