A scream wakes our protagonist, and he can hear the dissipating sounds of a gunshot. Disorientated and in a fog, both literally and figuratively, he tries to figure out what’s going on. But the more he finds, the more questions he has. Where is he? How did he get there? What’s going on? And most importantly, who is he? Because he has no memories before waking up on a boat in the middle of a fog. Neither do the other five living people on the boat. Maybe the dead guy did but it’s too late to ask. As the six strangers try to piece together what’s going on they begin moving further into the unknown, and further into danger. Will they be able to figure out what’s happening before it’s too late? Find out in Red River Seven by A.J. Ryan.
[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Orbit for the purpose of this review. Warning: My review of Red River Seven contains some spoilers!]
So many questions in Red River Seven
It’s normal to spend the first few pages of a book feeling a little lost. You’re joining a story that, even if it’s at the beginning, still has a backstory holding it up that you don’t know yet. Like life, we join a story in progress even when a particular adventure is just getting started. But usually, the characters know what is going on. It’s their “life” after all.
But not so in Red River Seven. Here the protagonist doesn’t know where he is, why he’s there, or even what his name is. He’s a complete blank slate up until the first word of the book. And so is every other character. As they investigate their surroundings it becomes clear that they’re not actually pod people with no background, they have skills and world knowledge. But all their personal memories have been wiped away somehow.
Why they’ve had their memories wiped is the driving force behind Red River Seven’s plot. Interestingly, the mission they’ve been sent on is almost unimportant to the plot beyond it being the cause of the memory wipe. Especially at the beginning of the story. The characters are given objectives every so often by a computerized voice, and they follow the directions because it quickly becomes obvious that not following directions will get them killed. But beyond that, their mission is just a backdrop to the mystery of their missing identities.
By the end of Red River Seven, we only get a few answers. Most of our curiosity goes unslaked. Some of the answers we get are very satisfying though and I’d argue that we get enough answers to feel satisfied. Indeed, what we learn about the main character (dubbed Huxley, but not his real name) left both Huxley and me with a sense of peace. Which is quite an accomplishment in such a dystopian novel.
Be content not knowing in A.J. Ryan’s new novel from Orbit
A.J. Ryan does a good job of getting the reader to emotionally invest in the characters despite knowing practically nothing about them. I think that it helped that the characters were in the same situation knowledge-wise. It made me feel that we were all in the same boat. We might not have known anything but they didn’t either.
It got me thinking about how I would feel waking up like that and knowing I’d be confused and terrified created a strong bond despite the lack of background. Or I suppose because of it. I’ve never read a book where all the characters lacked any sort of background or had any idea what was going on. Sure I’ve read books where one character did, even two characters. Even the main character. But never all the characters. It was a really different experience but Ryan did a good job with it and it was actually interesting.
So if you decide to read Red River Seven just be ready to not have all the answers. And to be okay with that. You won’t get to know everything but you’ll learn enough. It’s definitely one that will keep your mind going when you aren’t reading, trying to piece it all together. It was an interesting read and one that mystery lovers and dystopian thriller junkies will really enjoy. Just make sure you have something lighter around to bring you back up afterward.
My Rating: 7/10
Red River Seven by A. J. Ryan is available now from Orbit Books! Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you plan on checking on this book!