|Dan Vyleta’s Smoke is a dystopia look at Victorian England where humans’ baser emotions physically manifest in the form of smoke that emits from their bodies, like sweat or spit. It has created an even more intense class divide, with the rich training their children to be essentially emotionless, punished for any thoughts that form smoke, and the poor practically blackened by their own feelings and thoughts.
The story follows three children of noble birth, Lovia, Charlie, and Thomas, as they make their way through the political miasma of party lines, revolution, and class changes. On the one hand you have the Tories, who want the status quo to remain, on the other side the Liberals who want all men to have the knowledge of sel-restraint- using science to stop sin in all men. And then there is the small group of radicals who dare to believe that smoke, this manifestation of sin, should be accepted as natural- not punishment from God, but more akin to the saliva and sweat it embodies.
This novel was a weird combo of Charles Dickens and Philip K Dick, a London of the Industrial Era with all of its poor huddled masses, while in a violent dystopia. The political and moral implications are astounding, the story over the top in its rendering. People who enjoy revolutionary tales will love it, as well as those that love reading about politicking and class warfare. However the science fiction aspect borders on the bizarre, and the novel lost me with its heavy-handedness. There are contradictions in how the Smoke reacts in certain people, and many questions about certain characters’ fates and their loyalties remain unanswered.
Definitely worth a read if you are looking for something to make you think and dwell on your own life station and your darkest thoughts. I give this three waves, and it comes out just in time for some seriously deep beach reading!