The Vitruvian Heir is a novel written by L.S. Kilroy. Set in a future America where natural disasters followed by famine have decimated the population allowing for an Empire to rise. Now ruled by an elite upper class and heartless emperor, history is rewritten to forget the fair and just past and it now exists with a repressive Victorian ideology. Women’s Rights are slowly repealed and religion has once again become the corrupt, dark powerful entity it was in the past.
Priced at £6.38 for a paperback from Amazon, this is the first novel of the Boston based author.
The premise of The Vitruvian Heir is an interesting one. We follow Lorelei Featherston (Lore to her friends) – a daughter of an aristocracy controlling a future set America – as she embarks on a journey of duty while harbouring rebellious thoughts thanks to her grandmother who remembers some of the old life before the regression to the past values of the late 19th century.
In fact, the story could be mistaken as being set in the late 19th century along an alternate timeline, such is the realism of Kilroy’s descriptions. But then there comes the occasional remark about the past along with some of the fanciful futuristic technology, such as Yoctosteam (clouds of tiny microorganisms that provide a multitude of uses) and carriages pulled by Spiders. At least I think the Spider is a machine and not an actual giant arachnid.
The starting pace is slow but with the occasional nugget to keep you interested. The beginning and through to the centre of the story covers a multitude of areas such as puberty and friendship within the protagonist’s protective life bubble, taboo homosexual relationships and the rise of the Church through fear and intimidation.
Inspiration for the various areas of the book seem to be plucked from different time periods and locations. The iron fist rule of an Emperor could be related to ancient Japan while the Bishop and his pleasure in seeking out the pain and suffering of others could be taken from medieval Europe.
The writing style reminds me of how I felt when I first watched Star Wars because it throws you straight in discussing the world and amazing inventions within it as though you already live there and that they’re common knowledge. Some of this can be quite confusing such as the aforementioned “Formidable Spider” that pulls the carriage. Is this a real giant Spider? Are Vitruvians a futuristic version of the Borrowers? Is the Spider a mechanical monstrosity with eight legs? It’s not really known and where stories such as Star Wars have expanded universes and other contributors to give you this knowledge, the book doesn’t.
Lore embarks on an adventure, finding a secluded sanctuary where women are treated as equals. Eventually she realises that she has to return back home as she is destined to marry the new Emperor of Vitruvia. There’s an interesting twist at the end and some of the scenes border on gory; which is no bad thing.
The book is exceptionally well written with no clear spelling errors or grammatical issues. It’s certainly an original story with only light steampunk themes and few science fiction mentions.
The Vitruvian Heir is a deeply political book. It’s a great way for an author to discuss various elements of Earth’s history such as crushing Emperors, the suppression of women and the wickedness of the Church of old.
It’s interesting to think that in the days following a series of natural distasters that we would look to the past for our salvation while still retaining technology of the day. In this way I’m reminded of the 2012 television programme Revolution. It was a post apocalyptic future-set America and in that they go back to the Revolution era military camps. I used to think that was unusual, but maybe people just act on what they know?
I found it intriguing to learn how a future Earth would cope with the events of natural disaster and how fear would play such a large part of our lives even in a time period that today we hope will be more enlightened. It shows humanity up for what it is; an unchanging, scared beast that can only lash out at what it is afraid of. I like the way the author has covered corners to explain how the world got to this stage, such as the rewriting of history.
If you like science fiction, steampunk and political dramas, then this is definitely a book to read.