After a brief pause for mince pies, champagne, and snow, (for which I apologise,) I’m thrilled to be posting my first One to Watch of the year. I’m a sucker for dystopian fiction, and have indulged heavily in this genre on authonomy during blue-January. And this book is definitely a stand-out new addition to the site:
Room 100 by Sarah Cypher
The novel’s opening is shocking and riveting: the passengers on a full bus are exposed to sight of three dead girls, recently stoned to death outside the walls of a quarantine area. This is the first thing the women on the bus see as they approach the entrance of the quarantine – where men are met by the force of soldiers, the author writes, the women are met ‘by fear’ at the sight of their fallen sisters.
You only have to read the first paragraph of Room100 to see that the author understands how to capture a reader’s attention. The description of the setting is clear and well thought out – which is so crucial in dystopian fiction. There’s a Mideast element woven in, which gives the situation a fresh if potentially controversial component.
By the end of the first chapter our ‘setting’ is clearly established: this a desperate world; one in which an antiquated dichotomy of the sexes is prevalent, but a raging plague does not discriminate and is wiping out the people. At the centre of the novel is Rabia, a young mother, whose lust for survival, dignity and freedom is second only for her desire for her daughter’s safety.
At the end of the four chapters on authonomy, Rabia’s husband has died, and she is left with her newborn child, Hana. When a mysterious woman takes an interest in them, Rabia accepts the offer to with her, even though she questions whether the woman is a spy. And that’s all we get! I hope Sarah sees this and uploads more soon!
Here’s Sarah’s pitch:
Set in a post-contagion Mideast, ROOM 100 is a dystopian novel about a young mother trying to escape the infamous Quarantine Zone with her child.
Trapped in the walled Quarantine Zone after her sick husband dies, Rabia, a new mother, captures the unwanted attention of Hanbal, a sewer king who governs according to corrupted Shari'a law. Women are just a commodity to be traded, and Hanbal runs a "school" that trains girls as wives, and marries them to men to forge alliances in the plague-stricken city.
Yet some students are scheming to escape their fate, and invite the savvy, passionate Rabia to Room 100, a secret club that is trying to arrange a wholesale escape from the Quarantine Zone--and leading the club is none other than Hanbal's own wife.
Rabia soon finds herself in a spiderweb of desperate cross-schemes. As time runs short before Hanbal starts a violent campaign against quarantine's oppressive conditions, and the club's activities against him become more dangerous, Rabia considers a betrayal that could destroy Room 100, but preserve the life and future of her infant daughter.