Suffering Is Optional
T. S. Welti, October 2012
From the author—
Seventeen-year-old Sera Fisk gleefully celebrates the death of her 114-year-old great-grandmother, the last Atraxian alive who still remembers what New York was like before Felicity.
There is only one principle of Felicity: Suffering is optional. Those who disagree or forget this principle, as Sera’s father did, are detained and “purified”. Through the use of the Darklandia virtual reality and mandatory water rations, the Department of Felicity has transformed metropolises all over the country into happy, obedient communities.
Inspired by her great-grandmother’s last words, Sera stops drinking the water rations and is soon recruited by Nyx into a rebel organization in the midst of planning a full-scale attack on Darklandia. When Nyx attempts to override the Darklandia system, he stumbles upon shocking information about Sera and her family. After years of living in a haze of virtual reality and drugs, Sera finds herself running from a powerful surge of raw emotions and a government agency intent on keeping reality a secret.
When I first heard about Darklandia, I was intrigued and, the more I learned, the more I thought this might be a book I wanted to read. So many people are self-publishing these days that it’s difficult to find the books that rise to a certain level of quality and I spend a good deal of time vetting an author or a specific book before I’ll read it. The benefit of such due diligence is that I rarely find myself hating the book I’m reading. The delight comes when I “discover” a true gem. In this case, I did something that’s very rare for me—I approached the author and told her I was interested in reviewing her book. I’m not sorry I did.
Watching Sera learn about the world outside her very controlled existence is like watching a tiny child encounter all the wonders of life, things we take for granted such as the taste of an apple, the feeling of being clean, the expression of joy or the sensation of pain. (Nobody looks forward to feeling pain, of course, but try to imagine life without it.) Her awakening, and her realization of the truth behind Darklandia and Atraxia, are the core of the story and kept me engaged, wanting to know what would happen next.
Ms. Welti does a nice job with plot but her character development is even better. Sera is clearly a girl who has toed the line while understanding that she has no familial support to speak of and her story is appealing. Other characters are equally interesting, especially Nyx and Darla, and I found myself really liking Lux. The author also has a way with words and the book was nearly free of formatting and language construction errors, something that’s important to me and many other readers.
The twist in the last few pages was completely unexpected and was an intriguing way to end the story. If I have any complaint, it is that Darklandia is too short—I would have liked spending more time with Sera and Nyx and Ms. Welti could have more fully developed some of the secondary characters.
Apparently, the ebook edition of this title could originally be found at multiple venues such as Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and Kobo. I do hope the author will make it available again for those readers who would rather not purchase from Amazon. In particular, it would be nice to have it up on Kobo since so many independent bookstores now offer the Kobo device and its ebooks.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2012.