By Greg Hickey
Our Dried Voices is set in the future on a distant planet. Humanity has called the planet Pearl home for several centuries, but the technological abilities that were used to accomplish this seem well beyond the intellectual abilities of those who live in the colony.
The people of the colony remind me of the Eloi, of H.G. Wells Time Machine. Not that they are in any way a duplicate of the Eloi, but rather they are simple and emotion seems entirely lacking. They've allowed the ease of their existence to stunt them mentally. They don't seem able to think an original thought nor take the initiative to start a task that hasn't been trained into their herd like existence.
But when calamities begin occurring that threaten the existence of both the colony and those who live within its boundaries, a "hero" steps forward. Samuel notices the incidents and their impact on the colony. As the effects and troubles continue Samuel begins to think. And as a result he starts to change. But why are these people attacking the colony? What is the purpose behind these acts of sabotage? Samuel is determined to find out why and to end these threats.
But what he finds is not what he expected. Will the last remnants of humanity survive? Or will Pearl finally be rid of this human settlement?
Our Dried Voices is both interesting and disturbing. A world without want whose sole purpose is pleasure and utter ignorance. Having come from a world where knowledge was responsible for their ease one would think knowledge would have been valued and passed down through the generations. It's sad to think that knowledge and learning could be abandoned. Yet this is a common theme in both this work and the earlier mentioned Time Machine and it is a sad commentary on what some view our distant future. Samuel's growth is welcome one and a glimmer of hope that the thirst and quest for knowledge is not dead, it just needs a spark to ignite it.
I was provided a copy of this book by the author through PUYB in exchange for my honest review and my tour participation.
Book in the Spotlight:
Title: Our Dried Voices
Author: Greg Hickey
Publisher: Scribe Publishing Company
Publication Date: November 4, 2014
Genre: Dystopian / Science Fiction
Format: Paperback, eBook (.mobi / Kindle), PDF
In 2153, cancer was cured. In 2189, AIDS. And in 2235, the last members of the human race traveled to a far distant planet called Pearl to begin the next chapter of humanity.
Several hundred years after their arrival, the remainder of humanity lives in a utopian colony in which every want is satisfied automatically, and there is no need for human labor, struggle or thought. But when the machines that regulate the colony begin to malfunction, the colonists are faced with a test for the first time in their existence.
With the lives of the colonists at stake, it is left to a young man named Samuel to repair these breakdowns and save the colony. Aided by his friend Penny, Samuel rises to meet each challenge. But he soon discovers a mysterious group of people behind each of these problems, and he must somehow find and defeat these saboteurs in order to rescue his colony.
The sound of the bells echoed across the colony. They sounded five times, and by the end of
the fifth peal everyone had stopped what they were doing and started to walk toward the
nearest source of the noise. The bells had a tinny, hollow sound to them. To be sure, it was
unmistakably the sound of bells, but it lacked that rich, thunderous, rolling swell once heard
in passing by an old church at the top of the hour. Instead, it was as though the sound of real
bells had been recorded and re-recorded ad infinitum until only bell-like sounds now
The bells called the people to the midday meal. All across the lush meadow, the colonists fell
into a kind of reverie. Moments earlier, they had been romping through the meadow or
splashing in the river with the joyful abandon of children, while others napped blissfully at
the base of a modest hill or fornicated with some momentary lover in the shade of a
spreading tree. But now their innocent laughter, their hushed excited voices, their
intermittent shrieks of pleasure all ceased for an instant as they moved as one toward the
sound of the bells. As soon as the fifth toll had faded in the air, the human noise resumed as
though it had never been silenced. The colonists walked eagerly but unhurriedly, small,
hairless, brown-skinned people, all barefooted and dressed in simple, cream-colored smocks.
The bell sounds came from the seven meal halls spread throughout the colony—long, tall,
rectangular buildings erected from the black, craggy rock characteristic of the mountains of
Pearl, now smoothed down and cut into bricks and painted a soothing off-white. Another
smaller building abutted one end of each meal hall. Their wan stone façades matched those
of the larger halls and there were no discernible entryways in their solid exteriors.
As the colonists entered each meal hall, they lined up along the right-hand wall to wait for
their food. The walls were painted a pale sky blue, and on the far wall was a small square
hole. One by one, each diner stepped forward in line, a small, red light above the hole
flashed, a short clicking and whirring noise sounded and then a round, firm, dark brown cake
appeared at the edge of the opening. One by one, each colonist took the proffered meal cake
and carried it over to one of the many wooden tables or out into the meadow.
Near the front of the line at one hall, a male colonist turned to face the man behind him.
“Hellohoweryou?” said the first man.
“Goodthankshoweryou?” replied the second man.
The two men stared blankly at each other for a moment. Then the first man blinked and said
The second bobbed his head and grinned. “Betterenyesterday.”
They continued to gaze at each other with vapid expressions until the first man turned around
and stepped forward in line. The two men were right. It was Tuesday. It rained on Mondays.
And thanks to the colony’s weather modification system, it had rained every Monday, and
only on Monday, for hundreds of years.
****When about half the colonists at this particular meal hall had received their food, an adult
woman moved to the front of the line. A young boy, no taller than her waist, stood behind
her. The woman stepped up to the wall, the red light above the hole flashed… and nothing
happened. There was no clicking, no whirring, and no meal cake emerged from the hole in
the milky blue wall. Some people a few places behind the first woman, by now so accustomed
to the regular pace of the line, stepped forward in anticipation of her taking the food and
continuing on. When the line did not move, they bumped awkwardly into the colonists in front
of them, very much surprised that there should be a fleshy, breathing, human body in their
path instead of empty space. Those closest to the front of the line fell silent when they saw
the woman had not yet received her meal, and then the silence spread evenly and
rhythmically down the line, like a row of pillowed dominoes falling to the floor. Yet all the
colonists continued to wear the same insipid half-grin on their faces as they waited patiently
for the food to be dispensed and the line to creep forward once more.
A long, loud, whining shriek from the young boy waiting with his mother at the front of the
line broke through the stillness, and it was this sound, not the actual interruption of the food
service, which seemed to have the greatest effect on those in the hall. The boy did not cry.
He shed no tears, and the sound which emerged from his mouth was not a breathless and
choked sobbing, or even the petulant howl of a child’s tantrum. It was a primal, animal moan
that rose from the depths of his unfilled stomach, rushed up his throat with a cold and
persistent ferocity and forced its way over his teeth, throwing his head back as it broke from
his lips. No one tried to comfort the boy. His mother did not even turn around to look at him.
Her weak smile faded, but she continued to stare at the dark hole in the wall, still waiting for
her meal to appear. Then a child some dozen places back in the line picked up the boy’s
howl, and then a woman farther behind did the same. Soon the entire line was wailing loudly.
Those colonists who had already received their meals hunkered over their cakes and stuffed
their last bites into their mouths. One of them stood up, bumping hard into his table. The rest
followed. They walked hurriedly to the door, brushing past the onlookers from outside who
had gathered to see what all the noise was about. Those still in line stared dazedly at the
others around them, at the now half-empty hall, an incipient question forming somewhere
deep in their skulls.
A man in the middle of the line broke their unsteady ranks first. He ran, stumbling over tables
and chairs bolted to the floor in his maddened dash toward the doorway. The rest of the line
scattered in his wake. Out through the door they went, cracking bony limbs on the wooden
furniture in their paths, pushing and trampling one another as they all tried to force their way
through the doorway at once, like blood cells pumped through a clotted artery.
Those who had already finished their meals stood outside in a loose ring several meters away
from the entrance of the food hall, and as the wild runners pushed their way through the
door, they began to run as well, picking up the wail of the unfed as they went. They ran in no
particular direction, a single mass exodus from the hall, teeming out across the gay green
meadows, up and over the soft, undulating hills, and their cries rippled throughout the once-
peaceful fields to fill the void left by the cessation of the bells with a sound far more vibrant
than those stale chimes which had just called them to their uneaten meal.
Greg Hickey was born in Evanston, Illinois in 1985. After graduating from Pomona College in 2008, he played and coached baseball in Sweden and South Africa. He is now a forensic scientist, endurance athlete and award-winning writer. He lives in Chicago with his wife, Lindsay. You can visit Greg’s website at www.greghickeywrites.com.
Connect with Greg:
Author Blog: http://kinesophy.blogspot.com/