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Review: Inheritance – Joyce Reynolds-Ward

Inheritance - Joyce Reynolds-Ward

Genre: Sci-Fi, Near Future, Agripuink

Reviewer: Scott

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About The Book


Rancher Ruby Barkley and her ex-husband Gabe Ramirez are competing head-to-head for the AgInnovator game show’s new one-shot award, the Ag Superhero. The winner walks away with $3.75 million per year for five years, with no accountability or need to re-earn the Superhero, unlike the Innovator’s other awards.

But issues beyond those raised by their long-ago acrimonious divorce face Ruby and Gabe. Fence cutting. Rogue biobots destructively ranging beyond programmed parameters. Physical attacks. And the realization that they may need to reunite to save their son Brandon from indentured servitude.

Then the secret shadow of Gabe’s hidden inheritance reveals itself. Will he step up to the Martiniere Legacy—and what role will Ruby accept in any future they may share?

The Review

Basically, agripunk is agriculture-inspired science fiction, generally set in the near future. In the case of Inheritance, Reynolds word set up a world about thirty-seven years from today, where big corporations run reality shows to fund Agritech. Our hero, Ruby Barkley, enters the “Superhero” competition, run by AgInnovator (AgI). Her project would help mitigate climate change by using “Ruby bots” to encourage better plant growth. If she wins, she stands to collect almost $4 million a year for 25 years.

And that’s where the drama comes in. She’s up against four competitors, including her ex-husband Gabe (and his ex-mistress Mariah). And her son Brandon is one of the people in charge of the competition. It’s all set against the backdrop of a vaguely dystopian future society, where those who can’t pay their debts are basically sold off to corporations and the rich to work as “indentured,” with no rights at all until they pay off their debts.

Things start to go off the rails when Ruby son encourages her to pretend to get back together with Gabe to boost ratings. When Ruby finds out how deep in trouble Brandon is, she has to act. And attacks on her person and her ranch only deepen the mystery of what’s going on.

I love this book. Ruby is an amazing character, a strong woman who stands up for ideals even in the face of a vastly changed society. The other characters gradually reveal themselves as the book unfolds, changing our perception of them.

And although they’re not main characters, the book casually includes a number of LGBTQ folks, including gay and lesbian couples and at least one non-binary person. And there’s also a nod to asexuality, though it’s really more forced celibacy, but I won’t reveal the details.

I love seeing a sci-fi world through such a different lens. Rural characters that in our time I would assume were conservative show a surprising progressiveness – maybe I’m being a little judgmental there LOL. And I lobed the backdrop of climate change. The author throws in some well-earned surprises along the way, and builds sympathy for characters that I didn’t initially like.

This is a well thought out, beautifully written book that celebrates the agricultural culture and history of eastern Oregon, and also takes a deep look at what’s going on in our celebrity obsessed culture and where it may lead. It’s the first in the series, and I can’t wait to see what Reynolds Ward does with the rest.

If you’re love near future sci-fi and are looking for a story that will surprise you in a wonderful way, pick up a copy of Inheritance. It’s a great ride.

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