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Review: New Denver – Ryan Southwick

New Denver - Ryan Southwick

Genre: Sci-Fi, Post Apocalyptic

Reviewer: Scott

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About The Book

Fi’s destiny becomes clear, and it’s the opposite of what she wanted: vast, mired in politics, and critically important to far more than her beloved Earth.

City life isn’t everything Seg had hoped. New Denver’s residents enjoy luxuries that Providers never imagined, consuming the results of their hard work while giving little in return. The only thing he finds of interest is the Mars Museum—especially after his blind white eye spots an alien artifact in one of the exhibits that no one else can see.

Even that exciting discovery falls by the wayside when a man possessing Fi’s same exotic features shows up on their doorstep, claiming to have traveled across the galaxy to meet her. The stranger’s story also hints that the artifact in the Mars Museum may be the only one in existence, belonging to the galaxy’s progenitor race, the Volnath, who mysteriously vanished millions of years ago.

Tragedy strikes when Seg vanishes without a trace during a daring attempt to retrieve the priceless artifact from under the Federation Nation’s watchful eye.

To have any hope of discovering her lover’s fate, Fi must team up with the mysterious stranger, whose motives remain questionable, and learn to use her abilities in ways she’d never imagined.

Ways that, if she isn’t careful, could have consequences far more devastating than even the Fall.

The Review

I met Ryan Southwick at BayCon this year. I’d seen the cover for his book Holtondome before, and it intrigued me, so once I had the chance to meet the author in the flesh, I decided to give it a try. I really enjoyed it, and when he asked if I wanted to read the just-about-to-release book two, New Denver, I jumped at the chance.

The set-up: Earth has undergone an ecological collapse because of climate change. In order to save what’s left and to make a new start, a Pact is created between the Cities, where Technology still flourishes, the Traders who are the go-betweens, and the Provider Domes, where food is grown, protected from the ravages of acid rain and flash storms. The domes are deliberately kept at a low level of technology, with what they need provided by the cities via the traders, and are rarely if ever given news about the world outside their domes.

In book one, Seg Holton, youngest son of the family that runs Holtondome, meets a fascinating woman from the cities named Fi, and discovers that she has lived for more than 20,000 years and has special abilities. He also realizes that he himself, through his blind eye, can do things no one else can – like see when someone is about to die. At the very end of book one, someone or something new enters the picture, arriving through a portal from somewhere else in the galaxy.

Book two, New Denver, has Seg, Fi and Seg’s ex Val and her new… boyfriend? Lover? Paramour> …Cook leaving Holtondome for New Denver, a much larger domed city where Grand Chancellor Chang lives. He’s the ruler of what remains of Earth, and has been for the last few hundred years since the Fall. Fi intends to try to talk sense into Chang in order to save Holtondome from a violent occupation, after Seg’s brother and one of the Feds were killed in an altercation.

But things are moving far to quickly for our heroes, and Holtondome seems doomed, until the new arrival saves the day and sweeps Seg’s sister off her feet.

Book one was mostly what I expected it to be. The cover told the story – an isolated dome after an apocalypse. I was fascinated by the taciturn Fi and excited to learn more about her many secrets. Over the course of the two books, she gradually opens up to Seg, and we find out much more about her and her life and what happened in the Fall – including a few things even she didn’t know.

Southwick is a “gotcha” writer. Just when you think he’s going to zig, he zags, which can be both disorienting and fun. At the start of the book, I was sure I was getting one kind of story. Then a couple chapters in, things changed again, and I thought I had figured out where it would go next.


Boom, and we’re off in another direction.

I only had a couple reservations about the book, and both have to do with the city in the title – New Denver. The descriptions of it were a bit sketchy. I came out of book one excited to see what a city in Seg’s world would be like, and New Denver never really came alive for me as a vibrant, real place.

And partway through the story, there’s a disastrous incident that comes at a very opportune time for one of the characters courtesy of Fi’s power to influence future events. But the fall-out of the event itself is never really dealt with (or even noticed by other characters in the story, who probably should have heard/felt it).

Still, these are minor complaints. Overall I loved the story, and the revelations we are given along the way. It’s been fun to watch the characters grow, especially Fi, who after twenty-thousand years still finds new ways to evolve as a person.

New Denver is a roller-coaster ride of a plot, grounded by our everyman Seg and his friends and family. Southwick has laid the groundwork here for a bunch of new developments in book three, including (I hope) a trip to Mars). I can’t wait to see where it will take us.

So grab this book (after you read Holtondome) and prepare for a thrill ride through a wild new future. You won’t be disappointed.

The Reviewer

Scott is the founder of Queer Sci Fi, and a fantasy and sci fi writer in his own right, with more than 30 published short stories, novellas and novels to his credit, including two trilogies. 

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