Faded Skies #1
In the aftermath of World War Three, the most famous face in the world belongs to a nine year old girl.
Maya Oman is the daughter of the woman who controls what’s left of civilization, the CEO of Ascendant Pharmaceuticals Corporation. Her smile is as ubiquitous as air, selling everything from vital medicine to vanity drugs with risky side effects. Lifelike android clones reside in over a dozen homes, shielding her from the violent resentment of a population straining under her mother’s boot heel.
Ascendant’s power comes from Xenodril, a drug capable of reversing the effects of Fade, a disease some claim came from aliens or from the governments that predate the war. Only Ascendant sells it, and at a price only Citizens can afford. The rest are left to die.
Maya’s earliest memories are of living alone in a penthouse apartment, desperate for the attention of a mother who never visits. Forbidden to go out except to record advertising video, her only friend has been the ‘net. When she is taken for ransom by a group of mercenaries with nothing left to lose, she discovers her life may not be what she thought it was—or wants.
Publisher: Division Zero Press
Heir Ascendant by Matthew S. Cox is a fascinating and fun sci-fi thriller with a unique main character. Maya Oman is the heroine's name and she’s the nine-year-old daughter of a ruthless woman named Vanessa who controls Ascendant, the pharmaceutical company that has a choke hold on the US economy. The setting is Baltimore in the near future, a few years after World War Three. The nation is barely functioning, being helped along by the drugs of Ascendant. Through a series of wild events, Maya ends up being freed from the glamorous yet lonely lifestyle that she’d grown up in. When she is forcibly exposed to the less fortunate people of the city who have to scrape and scrounge to survive, she quickly realizes that she’d much rather live with them than in her rich penthouse prison. She bonds with a street fighting woman named Genna. When the authorities show up and take Genna away to prison, Maya is determined to find and rescue her. Did I mention that Maya is only nine?
Heir Ascendant is a great book with interesting characters and a fast-moving plot with plenty of twists and turns. Author Matthew S. Cox has a free flowing writing style that keeps every scene interesting. The idea of a group of ragtag survivors fighting against those in power isn’t particularly original in itself, but Heir Ascendant works in a wonderful way for two reasons that stood out to me. First, the main character, Maya, is brilliantly written. She is smart because of her upbringing, she’s driven because she has finally found someone who loves her, and she’s also still very young. One minute she’s pretending to be a robot to trick some thugs, the next minute she’s crying because she’s scared and lonely. The other element that sets this story apart is Maya’s relationship to the story’s villain. I already mentioned that the villain is her mother but the way that plays out in the plot is intriguing.
I must warn discerning readers that the presence of a young heroine does not mean that Heir Ascendant is appropriate for younger audiences. This book is filled with R-rated content including a truckload of coarse language. I personally thought it was unnecessary to have every character, including young Maya, talk that way. But, that’s just my preference. Anyone who doesn’t mind the R-rated language will be thrilled with this book. It has great characters and a hard-hitting plot that will keep you turning the pages.
This series has a child protagonist but is intended for adult readers.