Sorak’s Redemption by Hedley Harrison. Book review

Sorak’s Redemption by Hedley Harrison, The Book Guild, 2017, Price £7.99

Reviewed by Nigel Robert Wilson

Every so often a story is written about a human settlement on another planet which has for various reasons taken a sequence of wrong turns to evolve into a caricature of human society here on Earth. Such dystopian visions have been around for years but occasionally one hits all the right buttons. Sorak’s Redemption can be commended as being one of those.

This is the tale of a young female officer in the military formation of a Senate that governs a city in a desert region of a distant planet settled by the crew of a space probe which had crashed in the mountains nearby some centuries earlier. The dominant social class are black women and the principal subservient class is any male of any colour. In between the top and the bottom of this social heap are all the other colours, sizes and prejudices. The women all have names whilst all the men being slaves have numbers. This rather direct inversion of our current social condition carries more than a hint of mockery.

The tale is well written and the plot has all the necessary ingredients for a superb story. What is more it grabs you from the start and does what a good book should always do; namely draws the reader into the tale. The nuisance is that the entire project is let down by poor editing. If the original text had been subjected to some brutal editing and rewriting this story could have become a classic of the genre. As it is it works reasonably well. This is more a case of lost opportunity than failure. It all could have been so much better.

The desire of any writer is to get their work out onto the streets but without quality and conciseness then the true nature of the end product can easily get lost. Given the time a writer expends on writing a book in the first place this can be quite disappointing.

The description of the society in which Sorak lives is well developed. The strong social hierarchy has quite brutal ways of imposing its rules. Sorak, a light skinned officer of the Red regiment has a reputation for curiosity above and beyond that considered suitable for her station. She has been indulged by the authorities to a point but it becomes clear this indulgence is to come to an end.

The prevailing form of social association among the ruling female social class is necessarily homosexual as men are retained only as slaves for the purpose of regulated breeding. Sorak’s difficulty in this regard is that she is heterosexual but is wholly ignorant of what that means. This allows an interesting web of social interactions to be woven that provides the reader with a vivid picture of just how this society works or, as we should say, malfunctions.

Eventually Sorak rebels to run away taking her preferred male slave with her across the desert into the wild lands beyond. She is pursued by her former colleagues who seek her destruction. This second part of the story is better presented, perhaps because it has less explaining to do. Her relationship with her slave develops into a partnership as they cooperate to defeat their pursuers. Their circumstances are well articulated and fully described in every detail.

The denouement is well managed. Revolution breaks out in the city and the point that revolution begets further revolution is well illustrated. This is a well thought out plot written in a satisfying style. The book is worth the read. It is a pity that it falls short of being the very, very good story it could have been.