Title: The Disenchanted Pet
Author: Kate Policani
Publisher: Kate Policani
Available now at Amazon and Smashwords
Category: Adult/young adult Science Fiction/fantasy
The Disenchanted Pet is pure Indie gold, one of those books that makes me really glad that authors can publish their work so easily these days. If that weren’t the case, I would never had read this little gem. It’s a good example of something that would never be picked up by a publishing house, not because it’s not good enough – it is in fact extremely well written – but simply because it doesn’t fit the narrow parameters of what the traditional publishing industry is looking for. There would have been no point in Kate offering it to even an agent and for many of the reasons that makes it so wonderful.
- It’s too short for it to be profitable in print, but a perfect movie-length read for the ebook market.
- It’s set in the future but isn’t your usual kind of science fiction. It’s thought provoking, one of the hallmarks of literature, but never indulgent, one of the drawbacks of literature. It has romance but that isn’t the focus of the story. It is set in a dystopian society, but it is much more subtle than most work in that genre. This lack of a clear genre placement makes it hard to market from the traditional publishing perspective, but it also makes it extremely interesting.
- It’s different. This also makes it hard to market from the traditional publishing perspective but it’s what readers like me crave and we only get it from Indies.
On the surface, The Disenchanted Pet appears to be a simple story about a girl living in a world where jellyfish-like aliens have taken over the world and treat humans like pets. The plot consists of the events that lead her from her ignorant bliss to a full realisation of the truth of the human situation and that truth is shocking and thought provoking not only for her, but for the reader as well.
Zarah’s character gives a delightful sweetness to this book and like her, an innocence that gradually becomes tainted with the truth. Zarah’s love for and trust in her ShaZha is like that of a well loved dog to her owner and completely warranted because her ShaZha does care for her, as ShaZha’s were supposed to. Zarah thought all humans were cared for this way; it was what she’d been educated to believe. She knew there were feral humans, but they were made out to be savage beasts incapable of living a ‘patriotic’ life.
If Kate Policani had followed the writing formula that says ‘make things really tough for your characters’ she might have been tempted to make Zarah’s ShaZha nasty, but I’m so glad that she didn’t, because it would have turned the ShaZha into a race easy to dismiss as the bad guys. Once we humans label something as ‘bad’ we tend to make generalised assumptions about them and tuck them into a box that we hide in the closet and never examine. With a good pet owner as the main representative of the alien race, the situation is much more complex and thought provoking. We see and hear enough to know that all ShaZha aren’t so caring and that different individuals have different perceptions of what humans are and how they should be treated, that along with some brutal human behaviour make it clear that there are good and bad in both races.
Primarily, this story makes us question what it means to be human as we see humans in two diverse situations and hear about a third, that of the savage, the free humans living on the run from the aliens but with no more technology or home comforts than a hunter gatherer society. No wonder Zarah is keen to return to her pet-like status, like a domestic animal that when released runs back into their cage. The Ferals live in ShaZha compounds with their culture stripped from them, no books or education, and nothing to do, because the ShaZha feed them ( not very well) and keep their dwellings clean (sound familiar). Human society there is based on status gained through winning fights, but they do have music and dance, something unknown in Zarah’s pampered world.
To avoid spoilers, I’ll say no more, but I strongly encourage you to read this one. Not only did I love reading it, but it left me with insights into basic human nature that stayed with me long after I’d finished it. I give it 5 stars.