“In South Africa, the future looks promising. Personal robots are making life easier for the working class. The government is harnessing renewable energy to provide infrastructure for the poor. And in the bustling coastal town of Port Elizabeth, the economy is booming thanks to the genetic engineering industry which has found a welcome home there. Yes—the days to come are looking very good for South Africans. That is, if they can survive the present challenges:
A new hallucinogenic drug sweeping the country . . .
An emerging AI uprising . . .
And an ancient demigoddess hellbent on regaining her former status by preying on the blood and sweat (but mostly blood) of every human she encounters.
It’s up to a young Zulu girl powerful enough to destroy her entire township, a queer teen plagued with the ability to control minds, a pop diva with serious daddy issues, and a politician with even more serious mommy issues to band together to ensure there’s a future left to worry about.
Fun and fantastic, Nicky Drayden takes her brilliance as a short story writer and weaves together an elaborate tale that will capture your heart . . . even as one particular demigoddess threatens to rip it out.”
My Thoughts: Nicky Drayden’s debut novel is one of those stories that reminds you why you love to read. One can easily see Ms. Drayden thoroughly enjoying herself while writing it because the novel gives off an air of pure pleasure. The characters are diverse in age, appearance, gender identity, and sexual preference, promoting tolerance and encouraging insight into other’s experiences. The action does border on gory, but it is in keeping with the characters and therefore is not quite as gruesome as one might think. The overall story is charming; there is a lightness to it in spite of some of the more darker elements of the story. Simply stated, The Prey of Gods is fun with its fantasy and science fiction crossover appeal.
The story also gives off a Neil Gaiman vibe with its gods passing as humans but hoping to regain believers and therefore power. Considering Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, the comparison is a positive one. Ms. Drayden deftly weaves mythology, whether real or not, into the story. She takes it one step further by layering upon the fantasy the idea of artificial intelligence becoming sentient. In a fantastic blend of the two genres, she then calls into question the idea of belief and gods and whether only humans can worship such ideas. Hefty ideas but she does it all in a manner that is welcoming and engrossing.
Another fantastic quirk of the story is how positive it is. Most novels set in the future are dreary and bleak. Between natural catastrophes, autocratic governments, or both, the future is not usually bright. In Ms. Drayden’s world however, the future is not a bad place. The biggest issue facing the government is an environmental one in which there are too many of one species that they need to be culled. The villages have water and food. People have jobs. While there are still different economic spheres, the tension that usually accompanies such dichotomies of wealth does not exist. Instead, there is an air of acceptance and love permeating the entire story and cascading down into the very fibers of society that usually cause the most strain.
The Prey of Gods is not the type of novel that evokes long and thoughtful philosophical discussions among readers, but its feel-good presentation does more to promote understanding and acceptance than any discussion ever could. It does so by showing everything in as matter-of-fact a manner as possible, neither asking for forgiveness nor seeking acceptance. Ms. Drayden assumes her readers will love her characters no matter who they are or who they love, making all of it a non-issue from the very beginning. If only it were that easy in real life.
While not a showy novel that will garner a mass following, The Prey of Gods is a well-written and engaging novel. Demigods may try to regain their power through fear and blood, but it is hope and love which win the day and the novel. It makes for a refreshing change from the doom and gloom of normal futuristic novels and a fantastic break from our current tension-filled reality.