The Jakkattu Vector by P K Tyler
Jakkattu Series gets off to a fantastic start with this blistering action-packed alien contact story set in a dystopian earth featuring two remarkably gutsy female leads, rebelling against the ruling tyrants.
I confess I haven’t read the prequel stories, Avendui 5ive set in the same world or the earlier works of PK Tyler. But when I got a review copy, my interest was piqued by the “Margaret Atwood of the indie scene” comparison. And after having rushed through this one, I am definitely looking to reading anything else from her. A year, when xenophobia has been termed as the word of the year by Dictionary.com, this book truly brings out a different dimension to that word. A startlingly original novel, The Jakkattu Vector is the first in a series that chronicles a disturbing contact story of aliens arriving on a ravaged earth destroyed by environmental disasters, but with veiled intentions and genetic experiments that go horribly wrong.
The story begins on an exuberant high – Sabaal, a Jakkattu (An alien species remarkably similar to humans, from another galaxy and a planet called Perithia) imprisoned by Mezna (this new species of aliens who arrived on earth decades ago, offering their superior technology to save the ecological disaster that has engulfed earth and has destroyed the planet and humans alike) escapes her captors and gets away from the ‘terraformed’ city that is the capital of their rule here on Earth. The scene sets the tone for the book, fast-paced to the point of frenetic and we never look back. Now Jakkattu are a warrior species, violence being an essential part of their lives – as is evident by the physiological structure of the Jakkattus. Sabaal is taller than most human women, her body denser and in better shape to endure physical stress. Pavarti ensures that through Sabaal’s thinking and actions right up at the beginning of the book, the readers are made aware that Mezna have some hidden intentions in their ‘visit’ to this new planet called Earth. The brooding sense of tension only escalates as we are taken on a wild ride, with Sabaal who escapes into the ‘wild’ beyond the city; an area apparently off-limits to the residents (‘rez’); humans or hybrids alike. The city houses ‘miscegenates’ hybrid experimental results of the Mezna, trying to fuse their DNA into the humans. Characterized by their bright blue eyes and their utter devotion to their faith as spread by Mezna, where a Divine Lord Mother is the guardian deity.
The other POV comes in from Julia Thorpe, who lives on one of the last few ‘pure’ human settlements beyond the big Mezna city. A feisty girl who question the rules and limits set in place by the council of leaders (strangely enough a matriarchal society ruled by women, taking tough decisions to ensure safety of the last few pockets of humanity, huddled together against the marauding dangers like toxstorms and the ‘feral’, cannibalistic roaming wildlings) Julia isn’t content with the deadbeat rhythm that her leaders have the society dancing to. Her brother, Norwood – himself a rebel in his thinking, refuses to be just a ‘cattle’ who is fit only for physical labor or being paraded for marriage proposals from ‘brides’ who arrive from different cities. In fact, I really liked his character and I wish there was a POV for woody. A brave man who actually acts on his thoughts and is in fact, the catalyst for Julia’s character evolution.
The diseased Earth – with left-over pockets of humanity cringing together for survival against an enemy that is the crippled environment or nature around them itself, comes alive beautifully in Pavarti’s punchy prose. Deft world-building that will bring a lump to your throat as you imagine the dangers of the scathing tox-storms that sweep through the settlements or the monsters out in the ocean. Or the detailed cultures of the different species including the epics and Gods of a new faith as being popularized by the ruling class. The societal hierarchy and the far-reaching consequences of rules set down by the tyrants in power. It forms a haunting background to the intriguing power-play and the evolution that our lead characters go through.
Pavarti mixes science fiction and genetic experiments, throwing up some burning questions about the human nature itself and writes up a storm as Sabaal and Julia’s worlds collide and explode. Jakkattu Vector is a book that takes you on a harrowing adventure, streaking past issues of human identity, xenophobia, environmental disasters and a stagnating culture with an emotional heft that will slam you with a left hook you never saw coming. This one deserves to be on your reading list. Solid four stars.