Title: In Ora: The Land of the Superior
Author: Sotto Voce
Publication date: September 28, 2021
Genre: Science Fiction
One Sentence Summary: When Luke brings Ruyi to Ora from their home in Origin for advanced medical treatment, he’s essentially drafted into being a test subject himself, signing both of them up for more than either expected or wanted.
In Ora: The Land of the Superior offers a fascinating world where humans can either live with incredible advancements (in Ora) or in a way we are more familiar with (in Origin). It presents some interesting ethical questions, which were explored through the eyes of Luke, a man from Origin who becomes a test subject in Ora in order to be able to afford costly and advanced medical treatment for his dear friend Ruyi. I loved how real he and many of the other characters felt, how their characterizations were so consistent and all of their actions followed logically and within their characterizations. I did wish there were more details and more depth given to the world, but, overall, I found it easy to generally picture. There’s a very sweet love story at the center of this book and I enjoyed how it helped drive everything else that happened. In Ora: The Land of the Superior offers writing that does leave a reader wanting, but I loved the way the characters and story wove together effortlessly and pushed and pulled each other so naturally.
In Ora: The Land of the Superior presents a fascinating world with an all too real and possible history. One half is Ora, home to the medically advanced where genetic changes and enhancements are the norm. Deficiencies can be edited out and enhancements can be put in to make the Orans superior humans. The other half is Origin, where humans are humans but life is hard.
Luke and Ruyi are from Origin, but Ruyi is very sick, prompting Luke to bring her to Ora, where his late father used to go for work periodically. The treatment is expensive, but, by becoming a test subject himself, Luke will have the means to afford Ruyi’s treatment. But there are things under the surface in Ora and things are not as perfect as they seem.
In Ora: The Land of the Superior offers an all too realistic look into the ramifications science can have. Ethical questions are raised, and ultimately answered by splitting the world in half. But it also tells the story of the grass not always being greener on the other side and, with the ability to change everything for more advantages, dark things can still lurk under the surface. While the writing did leave a little to be desired, the story itself offered a great deal of food for thought as well as events that always have the potential to lie in our future.
My favorite part of this book were the ethical questions, both the ones the story brought up and the ones it brought to my mind. The story and tension both rely on the differences between Ora and Origin. On the surface, Ora seems wonderful with all the advantages a human could want and the freedom to do and feel as they please. But with those kinds of advantages comes a serious cost. On the other side is Origin, which is far, far less advanced and deals much more with the unsavory parts of humanity. The history of how both sides came about was chilling, but I really loved how the author handled it, clearly presenting both sides with seemingly no leanings one way or the other. Instead, as the reader, I felt like I was given the chance to decide for myself, to determine for myself whether what the people chose to do was right or wrong. I loved how I wasn’t led one way or the other and that the pros and cons of both were so clearly laid out, yet also so intricately woven into the fabric of the story. It definitely made me come away from the book with a lot to think over.
I really enjoyed the divide between Ora and Origin and getting to see Luke and Ruyi in both settings, but I did wish for deeper world building. Ora gave me the impression of being very high tech like a city one might read about in a sci-fi story while Origin felt kind of like a backwater place. I really liked how different they were, how both had wonderful points of interest, but also how the history of this world fed directly into what is presented in this book. At the same time, I wished for more detail, for more descriptions to make the world more vibrant.
In Ora: The Land of the Superior is told from Luke’s perspective. As he grew up in both Ora and Origin, I found his perspective and narrative to be unique. There’s a lot he knows about and a lot he doesn’t, but his curiosity helps fill in a lot of gaps. It did seem a little convenient that he was so talented at making things, though. Still, he felt very real and I really loved how much he cared for Ruyi. It was fun, at first, when he had difficulties figuring out when women were interested in him, but it quickly became a little old and the love triangles that formed weren’t exactly my cup of tea. I did like that he was very capable, but also flawed, and that he had strong motivations and ethics. Luke really is one of the good guys, and I loved how consistent his characterization was.
As a matter of fact, all of the characters were extremely consistent. All of their behaviors followed from their initial characterizations and only seemed to develop further from it. They did sometimes feel a little one note because of it, but I liked that nothing they did came out of left field. Everything felt natural and carefully calculated, and the story fell into step with them. It was wonderful to see how the characters and plot worked together, how it all flowed logically and naturally. While the writing did make me stop to connect the dots now and then, it wasn’t often and it was always easy for me to piece it together. The interactions between Luke and the doctors testing him, Nioby, in particular, were a lot of fun and Nioby very quickly grew on me. As an Oran, I expected her to be as one note as all the other Orans, but there was a great deal of depth to her and her story line pained my heart a little.
In Ora: The Land of the Superior is a moderately paced book that offers some food for thought. It did take me some to figure out where the story was going, but, once it got going, it really went. After a slower start, the last half almost felt like a roller coaster with emotions and events happening left and right. At it’s heart is a tender love story and everything else kind of felt like a whirlwind around it. But it was a fun ride even though I wished for more detail and more depth. Overall, this was a truly thoughtful read with great characters and an interesting world.
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Thank you to the author, Sotto Voce, for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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