Decay by Mark Lingane is the second book in his YA steampunk/science fiction series, “The Tesla Evolution.” Set in a war-ravaged dystopian future, Decay follows Sebastian, his friend Melanie, and others fighting off a cyborg threat to kill off humanity once and for all. Sebastian, along with some other survivors, find that they have enhanced psionic abilities.
Dubbed the “Teslas,” they now need to fight off embittered and terrified humans suspicious of their powers, as well as the cyborgs. Like other effective dystopian novels, Decay offers good commentary on contemporary society. The cyborgs who are hunting down Sebastian seem to parallel contemporary technology and how it has overtaken our lives. They also feed on something eerily similar to today’s fast food. Have we become more robotic as we consistently have to rely on technology? Are people increasingly critical of anyone who is different?
These are important questions to ask, especially for a young adult audience immersed in cell phones and the web. Additionally, there is good commentary from the humans about how to proceed in this wartorn world. Some are pacifist and some are calling for war, while the debate from all sides is effective and engaging. This could have been a novel of black and white themes, but there is much subtlety and nuance in describing the humans’ plight. There is also some humor to balance out the darkness. The novel is plenty dark, but it is not unrelentingly grim.
All in all, this is a highly inventive and entertaining novel. It could work well on its own, as it has thematic elements all its own, but it would be greatly enhanced by starting with the first novel in the series, Tesla. Recommended.
Science Fiction Prize Runner up in The SPR Full Moon Awards 2014