Recent Sci-Fi Reads: The Diabolic and The Handmaid’s Tale | Book Reviews

November 30, 2016 / 0 Comments / Mini-Reviews, Review

Recent Sci-Fi Reads: The Diabolic and The Handmaid’s Tale | Book ReviewsThe Diabolic

Author: S. J. Kincaid
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication date: November 1st 2016
Source: Simon & Schuster Canada (thank you!)
Format: ARC
My rating:
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Red Queen meets The Hunger Games in this epic novel about what happens when the galaxy’s most deadly weapon masquerades as a senator’s daughter and a hostage of the galactic court.
A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for.
Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.
When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.
As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire.

The Diabolic is the story of Nemesis, a biologically engineered bodyguard programmed to protect one person against anyone around her. Nemesis is the Diabolic for Sidonia, the daughter of an intergalactic Senator under investigation for treason. The Galactic Empire decides to force Sidonia to come to their planet instead as a punishment. Scared for her life, Sidonia’s mother sends Nemesis in disguise, where Nemesis must traverse the political establishment while pretending to be human.

I wanted to like The Diabolic, but unfortunately, it wasn’t for me. The main issue was that Nemesis’ voice was kind of robotic and completely devoid of emotion. This worked great for the book, because that’s how Nemesis is supposed to be. But for me, it was a disaster for connecting with the novel. I’m a reader who is all about character and voice. Being unable to relate to a character in any way at all makes it really difficult for me to keep reading. The plot was interesting at first, but as my interest in Nemesis waned, so did my interest in the plot.

I have heard from friends that Nemesis’ voice and character does change in the end. I got to about page 160 and I still couldn’t feel anything so I put it down. If you’re a fantasy reader who’s more into plot, though, I hope you’ll still pick this one up.

Recent Sci-Fi Reads: The Diabolic and The Handmaid’s Tale | Book ReviewsThe Handmaid's Tale

Author: Margaret Atwood
Publication date: August 20, 2012 (originally published 1985)
Source: Purchased from
Format: Audiobook
My rating:
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Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...

Dark, dark dystopian that shows how and where normalizing sexism can lead. Offred is a young woman who lives in the Republic of Gilead. She serves in a household as handmaid, a sexual slave to a childless couple. The US was taken over by religious zealots sometime in our future. The current leaders, under the guise of restoring order, have now installed a society that is based on old, fanatical Christianity.

The result is that most women are treated like complete garbage. The handmaids, like Offred, are women who are still fertile and are forced into sexual servitude in order to help childless couples procreate. Others, like “Marthas” are literal servants. Still others are prostitutes, or older people who have been used as toxic waste clean-up crews. The patriarchal society of Gilead doesn’t allow women to read or do anything using their brains.

Offred’s narrative flips between the time before this current world, how it developed, and how society is lived now. We learn about her past in the context of what’s happening in the world. It’s shocking. And sickening. And made scarier by the dream-like the way Claire Danes narrates it. Her voice at once portrays the hopelessness, desperation and acceptance of Offred’s situation.

This isn’t an enjoyable read and a lot of it may make you uncomfortable. But it’s a book that demonstrates just how insidious casual sexism can be; how easily it can slip in, invade a society, and then wreak havoc. That, to me, is one of the most brilliant parts of the novel.

The other brilliant part is how it ends. I don’t want to give this away. But there’s more than Offred’s viewpoint in this book. It’s through the final chapter of the novel that we really see how everything ties together – and how much we don’t know.

There were parts of this book where I lost interest, and where Offred’s narrative just floated past me. There’s an art to the way she talks – she parses words as she goes. It was both interesting and boring at times. And maybe that’s the point: the dichotomy of fighting while being mentally and physically beaten down. Offred is enslaved both in thought and action, and the former is the worst of the two. There are so many times in her narrative where we go back to her at night, when she has hours to lay awake and try to remember while trying to accept. It’s a narrative where exhaustion and boredom lead to defeat.

I’m still trying to process my thoughts about this book, but I understand why The Handmaid’s Tale so lauded. It might not really be for me, but I’m still glad I read it. It’s a solid reminder, especially in light of current events in the US, of how things could be if we don’t remain vigilant and work to stamp out prejudice.

Have you read The Diabolic or The Handmaid’s Tale? Did you like these dark sci-fi books, or were they heavy for you? If you’re into sci-fi, what have you been reading lately? Hit the comments and let me know!

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