It’s a two course meal on the table today, my foodies! A double-shot of near-future dystopian eating, Durable Impressions is a small appetizer, setting us up for the main course of Certain Hypothetical. As the first is so short and is meant specifically as the lead-in to the second, I’ll be giving my review as one complete meal, with one final rating to wrap up the whole dish.
Now before we get to that review, let’s recite the Starving Review oath:
- I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
- I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible’
Both Durable and Certain contain some interesting flavors, different touches and approaches to the rather large pot of dystopian fiction. The name of the series really says it all, that this meal is set to describe a ‘slowpocalypse’, a slower, gradual descent into chaos as opposed to a sudden crash. With the volatile political environment in the real United States, this kind of dystopian slide is certainly something that feels more realistic than some of the extreme scenarios in other recipes. It’s a refreshingly fresh flavor to add to the pot.
Likewise, there are a lot of solid recipe choices made. The main protagonists are fairly well fleshed-out and the core wordsmithing is well done. The primary plot, as well, is well-thought out and does a fine job with the mystery at its core. The pacing is a bit sluggish, but that has more to do with the world-building problem that is the main sour note of this recipe.
We really can’t go on without talking about this point. The world-building is almost non-existant and that is a critical problem, especially with a speculative future recipe. There are acronyms and abbreviations that are not explained in the texts. We know little about the specifics of where we are and the environment we are in. Not until the very, very end of Certain do we have any real idea of what is going wrong in the rest of the United States.
The reason this makes such a huge difference in how tasty this meal winds up is that, without this vital information, we have no idea what the actual stakes are. We have vague implications that things could go wrong, but we’re never told how this bad event would actually hurt anything. We get a vague sense that this compound the characters live at is somehow vital, but no clue as to why. We don’t even really get a sense of *why* the antagonists are doing what they are doing, only a very vague political reason. Without any real conception of the stakes of the situation, with no real dramatic pressure, there’s no dramatic tension to the situation, making the pacing seem sluggish and stretches of the plot feel meandering.
So, to sum it all up, Durable Impressions and Certain Hypothetical contain a lot of fine ingredients and one big, sour note that throws it all off. Let’s be clear, the lack of world-building doesn’t turn these into awful stories. It simply greatly diminishes them. What would have been nearly perfect turns into something much more average. Still, if you enjoy speculative dystopian works, this isn’t a bad one and it may possibly get the proper world-building in later volumes to make it really pop.
FINAL VERDICT: *** (A lot of fine ingredients but a major lack of world-building throws it all off!)