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Friday, March 7, 2014


Author:  M. D. Waters (pseudonym for Misty D. Waters)
Plot Type:   Dystopian Futuristic Romance   
Ratings:  Violence3; Sensuality3; Humor—2 
Publisher and Titles:  Dutton
          Archetype (hardcover, e-audio, & e-book2/2014; paperback6-2014)
          "Antitype" (e-novella5/2014)
          Prototype (hardcover & e-book7/2014) (FINAL) 
NOTE: Titles are listed above in reading order. Reading them out of order will destroy all of the excellent suspense and drama that Waters created in the first novel, Archetype.

This post was revised and updated on 8/9/14 to include a review of 
Prototype, the second and FINAL novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by reviews of the first novel and novella.   

          SPOILER ALERT:           
          This review of Prototype contains MANY SPOILERS for anyone           
          who has not read Archetype, the first novel.           

            NOVEL 2:  Prototype                 
     This book begins a year and a half after the end of Archetype. Here, Emma muses about her current situation: "Knowing I am Emma Wadeex-resistance major, wife of Noah Tucker, mother to Adriennedoes not change the fact that I am still a clone carrying Her soul. That those I left behind could not bring themselves to accept me for who I am. I am forced to make a new life for myself, and this is all I hope to do once I find my parents." (p. 2)

     In the riveting conclusion to this terrific series, Emma is on the run. She hurriedly left Noah and Baby Adrienne behind after both Noah and his girlfriend, Sonya, barely treated her like a human being and told her that she could never replace her human host. As the story opens, Emma is searching for her long-lost parents in a small, isolated Mexican village. Just as she finds a man who might have known her parents, her hated "husband,"the man who had her clonedshows up on a holographic broadcast right next to where Emma is standing in the public market. Emma is shocked because she believed that Declan Burke was deadthat he had drowned in a frozen lake while she was trying to escape from his clutches. But Declan is back, and he's looking for his wife. In fact, he offers a huge monetary reward to the person who returns her to him. Naturally, everyone in the marketplace tries to catch Emma, but she escapes and eventually returns to the only safe place she knows: the Resistance headquarters in Richmond from which she ran away just a short time ago.

     Although Emma finds that Noah, Adrienne, and Sonya have formed a seemingly happy family, she vows to stay there and not leave her daughter again, even though watching Sonya fawn over Noah and Adrienne is painfully difficult. Most of the Resistance soldiers and officers don't trust Emma; they believe that she has been sent to spy on them. Only a handful will speak to her, and she soon considers them to be her only friends: Leigh, Miles, and Foster. (Note: In an on-line interview, Waters says that she plans to write a spin-off novel from Leigh's perspective.) 

     There are really three Emmas in this series: There is Emma the now-dead human who was a street-tough Resistance fighter whose life was focused on her love for Noah and her need to rescue captive girls from the WTCs, no matter how many guards she had to kill. Then there is Emma as a new clone in Archetype, where she is a confused, needy, frail, and passive pawn who meekly acquiesces to the commands of Declan and Dr. Travista. Finally, we have the Emma of Prototype, who has toughened up considerably during her 18 months on the run. The Emma in this book is tired of being pushed around. She is much stronger physically and mentally and isn't afraid to stand up for herself against just about anyone. She hates killing and armed conflict and wants only to live out a peaceful life with her family. 

     At this point, Emma spends a lot of her time just trying to figure out who she really is. Declan views her as his dutiful clone wife. Noah views her as some kind of a convoluted form of his dead human wife. Most of the Resistance folks view her as a traitorous freak. All of the doctors she meets view her as a living experiment. But who is she really? Emma has to find a balance between who she was and who she has become. Emma's future, though, is threatened by increasingly frequent black-outs during which she can feel death reaching out to claim her. She's afraid to ask for medical help because she remembers the horrors of Dr. Travista's laboratory. Even when Dr. Phillip Malcom, a doctor with the Resistance, offers his help, Emma isn't sure whether she can trust him. Dr. Malcom, by the way, isalong with Milesthe comic relief of this novel. Miles is a humorously lecherous Lothario, and Dr. Malcom is the very picture of a disorganized, discombobulated scientist.

     The story plays out in a twisty, suspenseful series of events as Declan keeps upping the ante on getting Emma back, Sonya threatens Emma's future happiness, Noah seems to be conflicted about their relationship, and long-hidden secrets begin to surfacesecrets that make Emma's true identity even more complex.

     Eventually, the resolution comes in several closely connected showdown scenes during which Emma learns the identity of her parents, faces possible death due to a fatal error in Dr. Travista's cloning formula, and makes important decisions about her future. I don't want to reveal too much of the plot because it is so much fun to speed-turn those pages wondering what could possible happen next.

     This is a fantastic conclusion to a top-notch series with a fresh and inventive mythology, interesting characters who must overcome all sorts of emotional and physical hardships, and an overall series story arc that defies description. I am always searching for a series that is new, different, and well written, and this one meets all of those criteria. If you're looking for an engrossing read to take you though the dog days of August, pick up Archetype, "Antitype," and Prototype and head for the beach.

     This world is a mash-up of the gender issues from Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Ira Levin's The Stepford Wives and the "Big-Brother-is-watching-you" element from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. The series is set in a futuristic, dystopian America that has been severed by a violent civil war. That split is not between the North and South as it was in true-life 19th century America. This split is between East and West, with the West being the land of the free, so to speak, and the East being the land of computer-generated super-surveillance that has pretty much erased any semblance of personal privacy. 

     This mythology includes several futuristic elements, principally teleportation through floor-to-ceiling clear plastic tubes. "Teleportation ports take you out of the building…to other floors, too. They split you into a million different pieces and send your bits to your destination. You tell it where you want to port and it sends you there." (p. 80)

     East America "is a man's land. Corporations with their eye on the prize: survival by any means necessary, but only if it makes a lot of money." (p. 135) In East America, women are divided into two groups: those who are fertile and those who are not. Because of centuries of selective breeding, the world is over-populated with males, and the majority of females who do exist are infertile. The few females who are fertile remain so only until they are in their late twenties, so fertility has become a rare and valuable prize. In this world, birth control, selective breeding, and abortion are strictly prohibited by law, and fertility is extremely important in deciding what will happen to East American females. As one non-fertile female explains, "Marriage is for the fertile. They don't waste time marrying off the rest of us, and there's always some job that needs a woman to fill it, so at the very least we aren't wasted." (p. 180)

     In an effort to build up the population, female children in East America are kept in Women's Training Centers (aka WTC, aka work camps) and used as slave labor until they are eighteen, when the fertile ones are sold to the highest bidder. Those bidders are wealthy men who desperately want to procreate in order to continue their genetic lines.

     We don't learn much about West America in book 1, except that women are not locked up in camps and are not sold as fertility objects. The West is the source of the Resistance, a movement made up of men and women who are determined to free Eastern females from the WTCs. I'm sure that book 2 will add to the mythology for the West.    

            NOVEL 1:  Archetype            
     When asked in a blog interview to describe the plot of this novel in a Twitteresque statement of 140 characters or less, Waters said this: "An amnesiac struggles between believing the secure life her husband claims is hers and the terrifying life her dreams say she left behind." 

     Emma is a young woman in her early twenties living in East America. We meet her as she awakens in a hospital staffed only by men, terrified because she has absolutely no memory of who she is, where she is, or why she is there. Two men control her life: Declan Burke, a powerful and seductive man who explains that she has been happily married to him for the past eight years, and Dr. Arthur Travista, the physician who has apparently brought her back from the brink of death. Both men constantly ask Emma to tell them what she remembers from before her accident, but Emma keeps hearing an inner female voice that warns her to be very careful about what she tells them.  

                As Emma recovers, she begins to have memory flashbacks of disturbing and violent events that don't jibe with what Declan is telling her. As Emma grasps blindly for the truth, she is still not sure who or what to believe, and by this time, she doesn't even trust her inner voice much of the time. Eventually, Declan is so kind, generous, and loving in all his actions and words that Emma begins to fall in love with him. After all, he is her husband, isn't he?

     In order to provide Emma with an outlet for the energy that builds up while she is sequestered in her hospital room, Dr. Travista provides art supplies: tubes of paint and blank canvases on which she can let her imagination take her wherever she wants to go. For reasons she doesn't understand, Emma paints a series of seashore scenes, which trigger more flashbacks, this time involving a mysterious man who calls Emma his wife. At first, Emma believes that she must have been unfaithful to Declan with the man in her dream, but then events occur that confuse her even more. Throughout the book, Emma goes back and forth between believing that her dreams are real and that they are simply a figment of her imagination, although her inner voice continues to tell her to believe the dreams, not the reality.  

     The first half of the book follows Emma through her long period of recovery as she alternates between arguing with her snarky inner voice, believing that Declan is telling the truth, and dreaming increasingly about the other man. In the second half of the book we see Emma's life begin to unravel as her dreams become more and more real, and events and people from her past turn her new existence upside down and inside out.

     The final twists and turns of the plotespecially the final oneare intricately executed. Although I had a vague idea of where Waters was going with her story, I was not able to predict many of the key plot resolutionsand that's a good thing! One caution: Please don't read the ending first. I had to fight myself to keep from doing just that, but I promise you that the pay-off is too great to ruin it for yourself.

     Although some have criticized the slow pace of the first half of the book, I don't see this as a problem. Yes, it does move slowly, but it has to in order for the reader to really get inside Emma's mind and feel the confusion that she feels. The story is told in Emma's first-person voice, so, by definition, the reader can see and feel only what she does. Gradually, we begin to understandjust as Emma does—more and more about the world in which she has awakened. Then, when we reach Chapter 20, the pace revs up and never slows down until the very end, taking us on a wild and crazy ride to a cliff-hanger ending.

     For me, this was a can't-put-it-down reading experience. I couldn't stop turning the pages because I couldn't stop trying to figure out what was really going on. Waters has succeeded in creating a fully developed female character who begins as a spineless, pliable void with no possessions, no family, and no memories. But thenright before our very eyes—she grows, gradually and arduously, into a decisive, courageous woman. Waters carefully constructs this dystopian world in a manner that makes it as believable as it is horrific. I can't wait to read the prequel novella and the second novel.

     Prototype, the second novel, is due in July 2014. On her blog, Waters states, "The story begins a year and four months later, and if I did my job right, will have you gasping by the end of chapter 1. You won't find the slower pace of Archetype within these pages."  

     One of the key symbols in Archetype is the luckenbooth. I can't go into any detail without unveiling a spoiler, so I'll just say this: click HERE if you want to read about where and when the symbol originated in the real world.  

            NOVELLA: "Antitype"            
     Although the author refers to this novella as a prequel, I recommend that you read it AFTER—not before—you read Archetype. What this novella provides is the back story for the two main male characters in Archetype so if you read it first, you'll lose all of the suspense about their true identities that Waters so skillfully builds up in Archetype. Reading "Antitype" after Archetype was a satisfying reading experience for me because I was able to enjoy the dramatic tension of the novel before I learned the secrets hidden in the personal histories of the two main characters. 

     "Antitype" is structured chronologically over a period of four months in the lives of Declan Burke and Noah Tucker, the male leads of the series. Each chapter title begins with the name of a month (June-September) and then is further subdivided into two sections, one for Declan and one for Noah. The events of these four months lead up to the incident that puts Emma (the series heroine) into the situation in which she finds herself as Archetype opens. We learn that Declan and Noah are living unhappily in the shadows of their tyrannical, power-driven fathers, both of whom believe totally in the Eastern American tradition of using females only for procreation and denying them any civil or personal rights. Declan and Noah react very differently to their fathers' nefarious maneuvering, and therein lies the conflict that begins to play out in ArchetypeWe also learn the circumstances under which each man meets Emma.

     Declan's heart's desire is to become a world-class chef with five-star restaurants scattered around the world, but his father cold-bloodedly manipulates him into staying with the family business. Here, Declan confesses his dream to his father. "'I want to be a chef.' The words aren't as strong as I'd meant them to be, and I wish I could take the moment back….But he's already releasing a belting, back-bending laugh that stops everyone within earshot." (chapter 1: "June: Declan) Dad proposes a summer-long challenge, promising that if Declan wins, he can live his life as he pleases. But behind the scenes, Dad has a much different plan in the works. Later, Declan commits an unforgivable act in defense of his family's name and realizes that he will do anything to protect his family and their company's reputation, even give up his dreams.

     Noah, too, is dealing with a manipulative father—one who treats his serial wives and many children ruthlessly and heartlessly—thinking only of himself and his business. It's up to Noah to protect his sisters, who are confined to a Women's Training Center (WTC) awaiting their eventual sale to the men who pay the highest prices to claim them as their wives. Each time Declan visits them at the closely guarded camp, "WTC guards patrol the perimeter wall, plasma pulse rifles angled down across chests padded with protective gear. HK pistols hang from thigh holsters, and black batons swing from loops." (chapter 2: "July: Noah") In order to save his sisters, Declan joins the Resistance: "I probably wouldn't even be in this situation if I hadn't been sympathetic to the plight of every woman who's come in and out of my father's life. He wears them like a new suit and discards them just as fast….I just want to give up this double life. I want to focus on my family, work until it's time to retire, and move to some distant coast where I'll live in peace and make love to a wife I came by honestly. My sisters…they were a part of that. I need to make sure they're taken care of…." (chapter 1: "June: Noah)

     This is a terrific follow-up to Archetype, but if I had read it first, I wouldn't have enjoyed Archetype nearly as much. I cannot emphasize too strongly that Archetype should be the first book you read in this series. 

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