Are you feeling your life is lacking a little social rhetoric? Knight in Paper Armor is what you are looking for to fill that need. I’m just not sure anyone needs this much preaching from an otherwise decent story. Keep in mind this is a dystopian novel set in the future, but it is playing with metaphors of today’s news reports.
Natalia Rodriguez Gonzales is poor and bullied, growing up in a family of undocumented immigrants. Heaven’s Hole has little to offer her, so she gets lost in sketching out her memories and drawing a future she hopes to come.
The author Nicholas Conley makes a lot of tongue in cheek cultural comparisons in Knight in Paper Armor, one of which is Natalia Gonzales being this freedom fighter for Heaven’s Hole. Natalia is a seventeen-year-old girl with an edgy look who, at one point, shaves her head. But it’s more than that she rallies her people with a ‘Never Again’ slogan, and dares to challenge the patriarchy and the great Thorne Century Corporation that has it’s named on everything and owns a little bit of everything.
She could be plucked right out of our current headlines.
The other main character is Billy Jakobek, a Jewish boy who grew up in the 179th state until 2029 when Caleb Thorne used all his power to destroy his entire world to acquire him the powers he possesses. Now years of imprisonment later, Thorne is allowing Billy some freedom–not at all altruistically. He needs Billy’s emotions to power up so that Thorne can weaponize his psychic abilities.
Of course, the collision course is two young people made for one another, falling in love in a hopeless situation, and a rich, wealthy, white man having all the means to play life and death with people’s lives.
Knight in Paper Armor is a good story if you can make it through the battering of societal flag-waving and preaching. I agree with many of the points made in the book, but even I felt brow-beaten with the vehicle used to drive them home.
What did work for me was that I enjoyed the sci-fi aspects of the story and the interpersonal relationships between Billy and Natalia, and Natalia and her grandmother. I also liked to see that high school is horrible, even twenty years from now–it means my experience wasn’t anything special. And I loved the cuts to ‘Somewhere Else’–all that worked for me.
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary advance copy of this book.
About Nicholas Conley:
Nicholas Conley is an award-winning Jewish American author, journalist, playwright, and coffee vigilante. His books, such as Knight in Paper Armor, Pale Highway, Intraterrestrial, and Clay Tongue: A Novelette, merge science fiction narratives with hard-hitting examinations of social issues. Originally from California, he now lives in New Hampshire.
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