My rating: 3 of 5 stars
For a novella it is actually a pretty decent one. I start with ‘for a novella’ because usually the limitation of words either results in a rush of sequences or in untidy, abrupt narration. Neither style is very fulfilling.
In Exchange, the story is told by a female ‘earthward’ prisoner who can’t remember anything of her past except several instances of her ineffectual rebellion against her silent guards and their painful consequences. Her life is spent in a sterile haze, alone, angry and scared.
Then a man arrives. He stands out from all the other prisoners who shun her because she still resists. His colour, his features, his strength all set him apart from the pale, weak humanoids who fill the prison halls.
Unexpectedly he focuses on her and for the first time she feels someone else’s concern for her well being.
And no matter how much she wants to push him away he wont leave her alone.
In a short few chapters we understand the trauma ‘Myah’ has been going through, how alone and disoriented she feels all the time, the hope ‘Ruhan’ brings to her world and the bewildering rush of memories that follow.
Set far in the future, this is as much a romance as it is a story of escaping a prison where they are unfairly held and regaining the freedom that was taken away.
What I really liked —
> The gravity of having ones memories taken away and then returned a long time later is not trivialized. It messes with ones head, and messed with Myah’s a lot.
> The connection between Myah and Ruhan was sweet and restrained. It suited the story.
> The descriptions of everyday life of a prisoner whose every need is taken care of by programmed bots that were never intended to compensate for human distresses was carefully thought out and well written.
What gave me pause —
> Despite not knowing whether she had always been in this prison, Myah seemed to have a surprising knowledge of a few things that should have been out of her grasp. Green summer grass, for instance. (Then again, their ‘exercise yard’ was not well described – it’s possible that it had green grass, though unlikely) Also the fact that most of the prisoners are ‘earthwarders’. How could she know that when she couldn’t recall what Ruhan was?
> The escape was actually quite easily orchestrated. The story didn’t linger on how it was possible for Ruhan to almost walk free from their respective chambers to the landing pad.
But there was nothing I really disliked. It is a good novella and probably deserves 3.5 stars. I hope there is a sequel that delves deeper into this world. I would give that one a shot.
DISCLOSURE: The author supplied me with a copy on the condition that I write an objective review. Here I’ve tried to keep my word.