26 December 2012

Orleans; Sherri L. Smith

OrleansOrleans by Sherri L. Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in the proximate future, Orleans tells the story of a dystopian former New Orleans post-many Category 4+ hurricanes. The spread of Delta Fever now means that the population has divided not along racial lines but along blood lines, with only the Ursuline Sisters crossing those lines to help the dying. Everyone knows their bloodtype and stays within their tribe ("tribe is life"), although here are some who try to make it on their own. The Delta area was at first quarantined, then separated from the US (now known by Delta residents as the Outer States of America) and no longer receives help from their former government.

Fen, an O-Positive, is suddenly without a tribe following a deadly raid by ABs; she's also suddently in the role of caretaker of her chieftain's newborn child and needs to get Baby Girl to safety. Intertwined with her story is that of Daniel, an epidemiologist looking to cure Delta Fever, who has come over the Wall into the Delta (illegally) to try to find the scientists left in Orleans who may have research on the virus that can help. Eventually they meet up and start working together, although Fen does not trust Daniel. She does, however, realize he's Baby Girl's best hope of getting to the Outer States and to a better life.

The writing is compelling, making Orleans' new state recognizable to those who know the current era New Orleans. Using Delta Fever as the reason for the dystopia will definitely appeal to those tired of some vague "time before" or nuclear disaster - it's also clear what the world beyond the Wall is like, rather than an imagined "other". And the ending? With luck it's deliberately ambiguous (like the ending to The Giver) and not prelude to a sequel. Pair this with Drowned Cities for a 1-2 punch.

ARC provided by publisher.

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