As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

REVIEW: The Golden Age – Alysha Fraser

The Golden Age - Alysha Fraser

Genre: Sci-Fi, Crime & Mystery, Political

Reviewer: Lee

Get It On Amazon

About The Book

2025: What will life be like?

Nineteen-year old Lisa of Ottawa University is thrust into the world of activism. Tensions arise with her boyfriend as she begins to question the new gene therapy mandates.

A new social circle has given her fresh powers of insight…she faces off against the QR code restrictions in her city. Yet the deeper she probes into the truth, the deeper she plunges into the lies and corruption surrounding the public mandates.

Can she find a way to create a better future for herself and her community?

She had better act fast…with each passing day her world fractures…and things are not what they seem.

The Review

In The Golden Age, Alysha Fraser shaves the boundary between reality and speculative fiction to the narrowest sliver. And it’s an uncomfortable sliver indeed, likely as Fraser intended it to be. The story opens its eyes through Lisa, a student on a university campus during the COVID pandemic. Lisa immediately runs into a group of anti-vaxxers protesting the vaccines, lockdowns, mask requirements, vaccine passports and vaccine mandates.

This is a familiar scene. Every reader of The Golden Age will have experienced such an encounter in some form or another. Each person who lived through the COVID pandemic will recognize the angst, cognitive dissonance, and ongoing doses of misinformation being hurled from every direction, just as Lisa experiences it. And this is the hill that The Golden Age lives or dies on for its readers. This work of speculative fiction is uncomfortably close to home. There is no Star Trek separation of time and space going on here—this fiction is the eye of a needle’s width from being real. Whether a reader feels entertained or triggered by this story depends on their particular circumstances.

I am a geophysicist and wrote somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty science-corner type articles for an online news organization during COVID, and understand the difficulty of maintaining objectivity through data, claims, and lies. As I saw the various potholes and dilemmas that Lisa experienced early in the story, I had to remind myself that this is fiction. It is fiction about something that just happened. Don’t worry, I won’t take leave of my senses and deliver a summary of bioethics and its four fundamental principles (especially of autonomy) during this review. But I suspect each reader will be tempted to apply what they know of the world and COVID as they read this fictional tale.

The questions that I kept asking myself as I read were: “Where is this story going to go?” and “What precisely is the lesson that Fraser is hoping to teach?” As to the necessity of this last question, there can be no cutting so close to reality in speculative fiction without a thematic point. In this case, the point of a needle.

The Golden Age is not an overly long story, and is more plot than character driven. Lisa is the closest to a dynamic character of the many who populate this work, though for the most part her internal processes are a little too simplistic for her to be an intriguing lead. There is a cynical negativity to many of the characters such as Lisa’s uncle Ralph, or Ox, the mole. Although the roles of these characters appear to be illustrative, it felt like an opportunity for comedic relief was lost in OX, who could have brought some much needed dark humor to the proceedings if he had been written with just a touch more flourish, or his broken moral compass given a quarter turn further from North.

The same could be said about the evil Sir Vaughan, a thinly veiled stand-in for the World Economic Forum. I was hoping for something more interesting from him, but felt he came off as banal. It reminded me of a complaint I have for Dan Brown’s writing in Angels and Demons. His cardinals (not evil) would have been better written if they came off as intelligent. But they didn’t and neither does Sir Vaughan. This character has to not see himself as evil, but he seems oblivious to the insult. Something more should have been done with him other than the cliché treatment he was given.

Evaluating a speculative fiction novel based so closely on a real event is perilous. It is easy to get drawn in and respond based on your own experiences. Mine as a citizen and a journalist were not so black and white, though often as upsetting, as those shown in the novel. Having personally studied the charts for evaluating individual AEFIs—charts of near-arcane complexity—I was a little bothered by the portrayal of the nurse over the adverse effect of one of the minor characters. This, however, was one of the points of the book, If this were fact, I should be very bothered. If fiction, well, that’s interesting.

The Golden Age lacks the nuance and complexity to speak fairly over the COVID pandemic, its key points seemingly undermined by proselytization. As a reader and a reviewer, I must ask, is this an entertaining book? The prose is good in places, and uneven in others. The dialogue and plot, however, never surprised me once. Lines like, “Nothing is what it seems,” were frankly, boring and could only work if the character speaking it were to eventually be shown to be an idiot. Ultimately a writer must choose one of two things: to either dig really deep into the subject, both technically and morally, or to take a humorous or original take on the other characters. Neither of these things happened to the degree required.

But here is the counterpoint: Alysha Fraser’s crude drawing of the characters could be a ruse. This is the first book in a series, and some of these critiques may be all part of her evil plan to pull something original and surprising off later in the series. Further, the overt simplicity of the characters and their cliché lines could also be written to a specific purpose.

I just don’t know, which is darned unusual. Take these criticisms with a grain of salt. The COVID wound is raw, and Fraser shows courage in taking it on so soon. She may well be saving something ingenious for later.

Who should read this? The Golden Age dances on the thin sharp tip of a needle: will readers be triggered by this story about a shared recent trauma, or will they feel entertained? Fraser pushes the limits of speculative fiction in the discomforting direction of non-fiction.

The Reviewer

Lee has a background in physics and applied science, but has always enjoyed reading fiction. His first serious forays in writing came from dungeon mastering and high school drama club, although for nearly three decades as a geophysicist, he wrote only non-fiction. At the age of 25, Lee spent a prolonged period of time on the edge of death, had the last rights read to him, and enjoyed several near death experiences. Not even all the morphine could make him forget those. Lee enjoys rock climbing, cycling, hiking, swimming and writing. He is an Ironman Triathlete.  

Leave a Comment