So I read a book about the apocalypse. Or rather, an apocalypse. Wait, wait…that’s not quite right either. It is kinda about competing apocalypses?
Another book about another apocalypse isn’t, by itself, all that intriguing. I’ll give you that. And that is what I thought I was sitting down to when I was sent a copy of Babylon Twins by M.F. Gibson. I thought this even after I read the press release which promised that this post-apocalyptic setting was different because that is what I would feel compelled to say to sell just another post-apocalyptic novel if I had written it.
Babylon Twins pleasantly surprised me on this front and others.
A Unique Perspective
Babylon Twins follows the story of Cloe and Elizabeth Yetti. Well, darn, there I go being “not quite right” again. Gibson’s narrative style makes the book read like a recap; as if the twin girls were retelling the story around a campfire – simultaneously and from a shared first person perspective.
This took some getting used to, but it did emphasize the twins’ connection. Clo and El are differentiated plenty throughout the novel, but it is their bond, their twin-ness, if I may, that plays the largest role in the narrative and proves their greatest survival tool.
Part of that twin package is a unique language that they share that no one else can understand. They switch between it and English seamlessly depending on whether or not they wish to be understood by anyone outside of the two of them. The “twin speak” is set off in italics so you can follow along as they generate their own dramatic irony in their dialogue, and serves as more than a gimmicky narrative device.
What Babylon Twins does best is meddle with schemas, and it does this across a number of fronts very well:
- Females are the survivalists, heroes, and butt-kickers
- The brother is the “damsel in distress”
- The artificial intelligence behind the apocalypse is neither united nor singular
And it is this last bullet point that is the most intriguing and promises to carry the narrative momentum of what is projected to be a series.
There is not just one AI out there, but several and each with their own agenda. As with us humans, those different agendas lead to wars and those wars to treaties. But that treaty has been violated and the AI entities are stirred up into action against one another once again. That means there are sure to be casualties.
In Babylon Twins, we are acquainted with the agenda of the Yerba City AI and catch a few mysterious glimpses of a few of the others. Because the Yetti family hightailed it to the forest at the first sign of machine malevolence, we learn right along with the twins as they leave their forested retreat and venture into the world that evolved while they were away, surviving.
Clo and El are primed by their mother to believe that the artificial intelligence does not have humanity’s best interests at heart. She would know, as she had a hand in its development. But is she right?
There is a very neat juxtaposition of utopia and dystopia in Babylon Twins as the girls adventure. Humanity has not been wiped out; they’ve been drugged. But the administration of the drug is 100% voluntary. Curious…Why would a hostile AI give humans that choice?
And the even neater trick is that while Gibson goes about the task of subverting schemas or tropes, he also cleverly establishes one – and then violates it. I’ll be honest: As I read through Babylon Twins, I was satisfied with the story for what it is as a young adult (YA) novel, but I wasn’t quite sold on the series idea until two little words were uttered in the last pages. They were the breaking of the schema Gibson had built all novel long.
I can’t share those two words or explain the schema here, for that would be too spoiler-y. But the stunt was effective, for sure.
I Wanna Know What Happens Next
Babylon Twins is a wild ride. Really, it is! Where else are you gonna get scuffles with a robotic Santa Claus whose gift bag is full of drug-dispensing spiders or vehicular chases and battles wherein the vehicles are sentient and autonomous? He directs the action well and makes the conversations feel casual instead of expositional. That makes Babylon Twins an easy and quick read, for sure.
I will say that I hope there are more chapters like Chapter 15 in the future installments. Gibson hit some really strong emotional beats in that chapter that surprised me coming from a YA novel. Not that young adult novels are incapable of such things…it’s just that Gibson might have written the most poignant one in my memory or experience. And he did so without sappy love triangles, so he gets 1000 points for that!
Babylon Twins is obviously the first book in a series, as it begs so many questions without providing too many answers. It isn’t unsatisfying because of this, though. It is, instead, intriguing. I not only felt like the door was left open for sequels, I wanted to step through it. I want to see what Gibson does next with the world he’s built, and artificial intelligences that populate it, and the young heroines who are forging their own legend within it. And if anticipation isn’t the mark of success for any installment in a series of books, I’m not sure what is.
You can find Babylon Twins on Amazon here.
Disclosure: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of Babylon Twins by Smith Publicity Inc in exchange for an honest review.