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Alexandra Pelaez’s novella, Wax Under Flame, is the precursor to a full novel of what is pparently a new genre–literature of dystopia (as opposed to utopia, of course.) Never knew it was a separate thing, but there you are. I would have called this a work of post-apocalyptic science fiction/fantasy, but that’s cumbersome compared to “dystopia” so if simplicity is better, maybe the term is an improvement. At any rate, I must grant that her Twitter handle “sirenshaper” fits this book nicely.

Where we are in this elegantly titled work is in a world dominated by such folks as rape gangs and toughsluts and cryptkeepers. Of special note here is the language. She plays a lot with words and in intriguing ways. “There’s something very spiral about this guy.” “It was thrill, but it wasn’t enough. He wanted. . .more.” Nicely done.

Our protagonist is a singularly combative psychic named Dane, whose main preoccupation is survival in an environment where everyone is out to get you. Thing is, most people have a gang to protect them. Dane has only herself, and the strain is beginning to tell.

We love her toughness and her stamina. As she goes through a slough of crises, we get to know a little about her life, about the history and mythology of this world, and of her special place in it. A place hidden even from her until near the end of the book. What she’s going to do with her new knowledge is a matter for the larger work that Pelaez has promised is coming next year, and we look forward to it.

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