Archetype by M.D. Waters

18160111Published February 6th 2014 by Dutton Adult.

Archetype is one of those books that simply was perfect for me.

In short it reminded me a lot of the dystopian science fiction movies The Island with Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor and Children of Men with Clive Owen which was based loosely on P. D. James’s 1992 novel The Children of Men, in which two decades of human infertility have left society on the brink of collapse. Archetype explores a future in which fertile women have devolved into a scarce and precious commodity. Water’s debut novel features Emma waking up to dystopian world and having forgotten everything about herself. As does Ewan McGregor in The Island, Emma in Archetype struggles to fit into the highly structured life of her husband and the world she has to live in.

Set entirely on hospital grounds the first half of the story has a spare and creepy feeling to it. Publishers Weekly described it as an absorbing gothic thriller in science fiction trappings. Emma’s dreams and flashbacks, her interior dialogue with the other voice in her head add a surreal quality to it. In the second half the story shifts into a more or less high-tech action adventure. Both halves work together well and the story flowes at a great pace.

Like in those movies the world the protagonists live in has a clear futuristic appearance but the science fiction elements of the setting like innovative technology are downplayed to a minimum shifting the story’s focus on the thriller and mystery components. As a reader you are not distracted by the future, not transported into another reality. With the future in mind, the author instead maintained a steady gaze on the present raising questions about ethical issues and individuality without being too obvious about it. Archetype is not a moral play, but it satisfactorily comes full circle and does what the best science fiction does: using the future as a way to critique the present.

The romance (with something of a love triangle) is an integral part of the story, but the story doesn’t center on it. Emma falls in love with her husband Declan after waking up in the hospital because he is there for her and cares for her. But as time goes by there are a series of events that unfold when she questions how truthful that world and her husband really were. This book is full of stunning revelations, not the least of which involves Emma’s true identity. The plot evolves masterfully and will surprise you with its turns and twists.

As a reader I was very much interested in finding out the truth of what really happened and the mystery behind Emma’s identity. What really had me engrossed was not the romance but a very well told mystery where each chapter provides you with new insight and tidbits of information. Warning: Once you get started, you will not, you cannot put this book down! Archetype offers a chilling vision of a future in which anything is possible if you’re willing to pay the price.

This is the first of a two-part story arc. The sequel, Prototype, will be released in August 2014.

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