Monday, April 1, 2013

Whores / Nicolas Wilson

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Dystopian

Approximate word count: 65-70,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


“Nicolas Wilson is a writer, journalist, and stay at home cat person. Not that he's a cat-person; he just prefers cats.”
For more, visit Wilson’s blog.


“In the near future, women’s rights are eroding, and those who buck the system are hunted as gender criminals by the authorities and rogue militias. This harrowing dystopia is seen through the eyes of a woman cast into a resistance group by circumstance, and a newly minted gender crimes detective tasked with bringing them to justice, as he grapples with whether or not that word still has meaning.”


How to judge Whores presented me with a quandary. It’s dystopian, which Wikipedia describes, in part, this way:

Dystopia is defined as a society characterized by a focus on mass poverty, squalor, suffering, or oppression. Most authors of dystopian fiction explore at least one reason why things are that way, often as an analogy for similar issues in the real world.

Dystopias usually extrapolate elements of contemporary society and are read by many as political warnings.

This definition fits Whores, especially the last sentence. It takes off from recent political events in the US, characterized by some as the “War on Women,” and extrapolates this trend, theorizing on what continuing far enough in that direction could lead to. It’s trying to make a political statement. My dilemma was deciding what things were fair game for critique. Should I take the existence of the world described on faith, as I would with most dystopian novels, and, based on that, judge the story? Should the credibility of the fictional future world enter into my judgment? Last, how well does the story make its case for the political warning? The first is in any review. However, if there is an attempt at the political warning, which it seems obvious to me there was, then the other two seem to be fair game as well.

As with any sensitive subject such a politics and religion, the reviewer’s personal stance can enter into their judgment. So, by means of disclaimer, here’s where I stand. While I think the term “War on Women” is inflammatory, I also think it is real and that a certain segment of society is doing what it can to “put women in their place,” as they view that place, which is what it was prior to Roe v. Wade and the women’s liberation movement. While abortion rights are the largest and most visible part of this “war,” I think it goes well beyond that. In other words, I’m sympathetic to the intended warning.

The story, if the reader is able to suspend disbelief and take the dystopian world envisioned on faith, is a compelling story. Like many (maybe most) dystopian worlds, there is much that is different from our current world and it isn’t pretty. The characters you’re supposed to like, you either do or, if not, at least understand why they are the way they are. Those you aren’t supposed to care for, you don’t. While I think some of the characters would have benefited from a little more nuance (for example, a woman cop who seemed devoid of any conflict between her job and gender), overall the story works, or at least would, if not for the answers to my other questions.

I wasn’t able to believe our current world could evolve into the story world described in as short a time as indicated, which caused a constant inability to suspend belief. The book’s description says the story is set in the near future and all the clues point to this being the case. Specifically, other than changes in laws pertaining to women and their rights and how those changes were reflected in the attitudes of people, there was very little different from today’s world. Unless technology and progress in other areas comes to a standstill, it has to be in the very near future. The few technology changes I saw were relatively minor and easy to picture as obtainable in a short amount of time, if not today. Ten years, at most twenty in the future, was the way it felt to me. That one of the characters referred to Gwyneth Paltrow seems to reinforce my feel for the timing.

My concerns with the changed world the reader has to believe could come about in a short time weren’t with changes to abortion laws, which, given the path pointed to by the “War on Women,” could happen that quickly, but in the changes beyond that. A part of it was in the attitudes of men that, with few exceptions, were so chauvinistic as to be unbelievable as the norm, even though they are representative of some men in today’s world. But the biggest problem I had believing was in other laws that had also changed. Outlawing abortions had caused the pendulum to swing not to where the potential child was viewed as essentially equal to the mother, which would have been credible, but to the point where the mother had almost no rights or perceived value when compared to the potential child. Police power had reached the point where an officer could force a cell phone to pick up and be put on speakerphone, technologically believable in the time frame, but not  for what this would imply about changing the rights of citizens so quickly. Not only were abortions outlawed, but a law was passed overriding doctor-patient confidentiality retroactively where abortions were concerned, so that law enforcement could identify those who had obtained abortions in the past. Were this story set way in the future, say a hundred years or so, I maybe could have bought into the premise. Beyond these issues, I had a few minor issues with the story. However, these were insignificant when compared with the bigger issues of believability.

Last is the question of whether the political point was well made. In short, the answer is no. The world that Wilson extrapolated was too much change too fast and overstates what the credible fallout of starting down the path he pictures might be. If someone like me, inclined to agree this is a bad path to be going down, can’t believe that this route would lead us to the world painted in Whores, what are the chances that someone disinclined to believe will? I’d say, no chance.


Adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of typos and other copy editing and proofing issues.

Rating: ** Two stars

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