Trigger Warning: Dark Side of the World: Golden Silence by Lee Jerrard contains violence, disfigured persons, and references to rape, sexual abuse, and assault. If you are triggered by such matters or otherwise wish to avoid them, proceed with caution.
As most of my readers have surmised, I’m a big science fiction and fantasy fan. I’ve discussed the L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contest and brought your attention to the science fiction/fantasy publisher DAW Books. I’ve also introduced you to many new novels in these genres over the past few months, from The Origin of F.O.R.C.E. series to Sister of Echo: The Making of a Villain. Today I’m offering you another compelling science fiction novel, Dark Side of the World: Golden Silence by Lee Jerrard.
Imagine, if you would, a world of advanced technology such as flying cars, hand print-recognition door locks, and weapons of mass destruction. Beneath the utopian advances, however, runs a society which is just as corrupt as any other. The upper sections, from the apartments to floating taxis, are reserved for the rich and overall well-off. The bottom is left to the poor, the scoundrels, and the inbred. Some of the upper wander down into the lower, but it’s never for very long and not without a purpose. The government hires eliminators to dispose of the political opposition and other supposed-threats to the country’s way of life. In turn, underground organizations hire bounty hunters to kill the eliminators. Worst of all, the government controls the media and, by extent, the information leaked to the public, and so civilians only know what the government wants them to know.
This world may sound like an updated version of 1984, but it’s not nearly as large-scale as the countries of George Orwell’s dystopia. Instead, this world belongs to an island called Pervil, one built on the backs of the dregs of society which were then tossed aside as less-than-human. This island nation, while made unstable by disparities in social rank, has a bigger threat looming overhead: a terrorist intent on destroying Pervil’s current society and then, presumably, its neighboring ally nations, Tennesse and Crianca. That’s where our story begins.
Edward Sole is a broken man. An ex-marine, loving husband, and devoted father, Sole carries the weight of a dark secret in his heart. He’s an eliminator, recruited four years ago from the marines to dive into the worst parts of Pervil and kill his employer’s enemies. Everything he’s seen now haunts him, and even this once-disciplined and dedicated soldier can’t reconcile who he once was with who he has become. He wants nothing more than to be rid of his job and migrate his family to the “bright side” of the world, but he knows he can never leave this line of work alive.
That is, until his employer makes a deal with him: Sole will be free of his duties as an eliminator and given a new life with his family on the other side of the world if he completes one last job. The offer is too good to pass up, until he learns what the job is. Along with a team led by a retired marine major, Sole is to target and eliminate the terrorist leader Carlang Bodelle, his entire army, and the island which serves as his base of operations. Even with that caveat, Sole can’t pass it up; recent developments have put him and his family in danger, and he has to snatch any way out he can.
Despite his wife’s protests, Sole soon leaves with the rest of the team for Andolin, but he can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t right. It doesn’t help that his teammates, while mostly highly-qualified, are each broken in their own right and carry personal troubles which could take their focus away from the mission and endanger them all. Yet something else is weighing on Sole more. Who is Carlang Bodelle? Aside from his military record, Sole doesn’t know anything about him, nor does anyone else. Who was he before the military? What is he really after? And, most importantly, why is he even organizing these terrorist attacks?
These mysteries and more await readers in Lee Jerrard’s Golden Silence. Action, drama, and technological advances abound in this dystopian tale, and any fan of 1984 and stories about military action will be pleased with the premise.
At first, I wasn’t sure what sort of story to expect from Jerrard. The prologue pointed me more in the direction of natural disaster, whereas the first chapter more pointed to terrorism and political corruption. Eventually the connection started to piece together, and I’m certain that the tie will become even clearer as the series progresses. However, I found myself distracted for the first half of novel wondering exactly how the prologue fit the rest of the book; besides setting the scene, my brain was not wanting to connect the prologue with the rest of Jerrard’s writing. Regardless, this slight disconnect did not detract from my overall enjoyment of the novel.
As the story progressed, I became more and more engrossed in Jerrard’s world. The world building and plot are very compelling but they didn’t capture my attention nearly as much as the characters themselves. Sole’s backstory had my heart aching for the poor soul and I grew to understand why he’s falling to pieces. The tale of the romance between him and his wife, Connie, is very sweet and heartwarming, while also slightly heart-wrenching, and added a level to Sole that I don’t think readers would see without Connie.
Most of the main characters are likewise well-developed: Charlie Harris, the naïve media-made hero; Bomba, Sole’s friend from marine training whose job as an eliminator has hardened his view of the world; Lucas, the retired major with the ghosts of many men hanging over his shoulder; Ryce, the sarcastic jackass who prods at others’ pain so he won’t feel so bad about his own; Hawkins, the arrogant and technology-obsessed escort; and Dillian, the weapons expert who gives everyone the creeps with his masked temper and mystery.
However, much of the character development occurs through exposition. An entire chapter early on in this story is dedicated to Sole’s backstory. On the one hand, this chapter proves key to Sole’s development throughout the rest of the novel. On the other hand, I would have preferred the smoother, more dramatic effect of slowly unveiling his past through hints dropped as the book progressed. I can see the benefits of this technique and have seen it often in science fiction and fantasy, but I feel that it was still to on-the-nose at times in Jerrard’s writing. In fact, it sometimes slows the narrative down so that I started to lose focus during those passages. This technique is used less later in the book, allowing for the pacing to pick up in time for the meatier action and tension scenes, so the story in its entirety did not suffer from the exposition.
The moral dilemmas which the characters experience as they prepare for the mission helped me to invest interest in their ultimate fates. The struggles of characters like Sole and Harris expose their vulnerabilities and beliefs, giving readers something to latch onto in order to connect with them. The coldest of some of the more experienced and troubled characters, like Bomba and Dillian, increases the tension greatly. I spent a good portion of their on-screen appearances wondering who was going to burst and when.
The most important moral dilemma, which I cannot discuss in too many details to avoid spoilers, does not come to fruition until Sole finally encounters the mysterious devil Bodelle. Jerrard, in a classic dystopian twist, turns the tables on the eliminator and forces him to question everything he thought he knew. What is real? What is only a figment of his delusions? Is ignorance truly bliss, and does it matter who controls information? Jerrard raises these questions and more through this heart-racing exchange between our protagonist and the supposed villain. Given the state of politics today, I’d say that Jerrard is reigniting these debates none too soon.
I didn’t notice many proofreading errors in this book. There were some, such as missing periods and quotation marks, but those were never a distraction. I had some issues because Jerrard uses British spellings and phrases that I’m not used to, but it’s nothing that a Yankee can’t figure out.
All in all, Jerrard has composed a piece of classic dystopian science fiction, but with a twist. Approaching the dystopia from the point of view of a government employee—military personnel, no less—adds a new level of conflict and anticipation not found in a civilian’s perspective. The ending is quite the cliffhanger that has left me wanting to dive head-first into the next book. If nothing else, I want to know how Sole will finally reconcile his marine self, his eliminator self, and his conflicted self, if he does at all. What will become of the morally-conflicted hit man and his loved ones? I can’t wait to find out!
To read Jerrard’s Golden Silence, follow this link to Amazon.
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