In the year 2030, humanity is devastated by a terrifying plague that forces survivors into a life of cloistered fear. A quarantine is built into a city, known as Colloseo, where Colloseo Super Max Prison houses some of the worst examples of the surviving human race. When a military genius comes up with a new super-soldier program using these violent outcasts, twenty-year-old Dylan is inducted into a series of experiments to enhance his body and replace his mind. The plan goes awry, forcing one doctor to gift the former Dylan a chance at free will in order to save the city from destruction. Will Dylan live up to expectations from the doctor, the general, or even himself? Find out in Rotville by Bryce Bentley Summers.
Bizarre and twisted in an ultra-gritty setting, the story is what you might expect from the blurb; a grim pseudo-modern fantasy, zombies torn up by katana left and right throughout, without much in the way of sharp twists away from the typical genre formulas. That isn’t to say it is without them at all, as it spins a few major differences from expectations, but mostly the book expands only within its borders. The plot constantly spirals through trope after trope to put together its overall story, and it kind of works in a strange, patchwork way, all guts and glory on show in a gruesome and enrapturing display. It’s easy to follow, if you can bear to look.
Summers really builds on the basics, however, and makes a very sensible book, considering the ridiculous subject matter. There’s some consideration for common plotholes throughout, and there is a definite purpose to all the weird, wonderful science with political shadows puppeteering events from behind the curtain – all part of a larger game. I’d struggle to call the book intellectual in any way but it is one of the more obviously educated reads of its ilk, clearly more focused on fun nonetheless.
A major issue is the sub-par editing on display that really gums up an otherwise fluid reading experience. There is a plethora of common errors that really could have been swept up before publication and, while most readers won’t care, it was a personal hangup for me at least. The story itself does eventually sort of trip over itself as it overstuffs the narrative with just one too many elements, most prominently the quite unnecessary dream aspects. The idea works, but it’s just over the line of what feels good for the story.
If you love the idea of a silly, gore-ridden mess with flaming swords and waves of de-animated undead, there’s no denying you’ll enjoy Rotville. For those more on the fence, there are the more unique aspects of its political and intellectual highlights that may tip the scales.
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