Rating: 4 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
It is the year 2050 and the Moral Authority has become a key part of the U.S. government. Life is rigidly controlled along supposed moral lines with things like rudeness, swearing, overeating, and appropriate public behavior all monitored by the Moral Authority and violators are subject to fines and even prison. Homosexuality has also been labeled a crime against nature and anyone with even the slightest hint of homosexual activity might find himself imprisoned. The Moral Authority has not only become an official branch of government, but their control over the country is enormous.
Student Mark Bryan is hoping that one day he can make a difference and use his future degree in journalism to affect positive change to the country’s policies. Though in his mind Mark feels constant rebellion against the Moral Authority, in practice he tries to be very careful, especially since he is gay and an easy target for their undercover agents. When he meets Isaac Montoya, Mark finds himself drawn to the warm and friendly man, but he isn’t sure if he dares let down his guard and potentially risk his future for a relationship with Isaac. The Human Rights Campaign has become the resistance group that is fighting against the Moral Authority and their attempts to control the lives of the people, and most especially their latest move to imprison gays in interment camps for “rehabilitation.” And overseeing everything is Samuel Pleasant, leader of the Moral Authority and true believer in their mission.
As those fighting against the Moral Authority begin to gain traction, Samuel begins to up the ante, creating stricter rules and setting up the camps for gays. He uses all his considerable political power to try and sway the public to his cause. At the same time, the Human Rights Campaign and its supporters begin increasing their resistance, showing they are not afraid to fight for their beliefs and work for justice for everyone. As these two groups begin a showdown, the stakes become life and death with Isaac, Mark, and Samuel all caught in the middle of the conflict.
Flores creates a fascinating world in Moral Authority, one that is also so terrifying for how real it seems. While some things may seem over the top, like fines for public swearing, some of these laws are shockingly not that far from what extreme groups support now. We can sadly see many groups who propose criminalizing homosexuality, for example. So even though this is an alternate reality, Flores still gives us enough of a connection to current politics that it all seems frightening real.
I also really liked the way the book combines the stories and POVs of these three men and intertwines them throughout. Although Mark is probably slightly more of a focus than the other two, all three men play a different role in the book and Flores manages to really blend their stories and give the plot lots of unexpected twists. I thought it was an interesting choice to give us the POV of both those for and against the Authority, helping the reader to see the crazed zealotry first hand and really understand the dangers that the public faces. So as far as plot and world building, I found this one really interesting and well developed.
My issues with the book really center on two things – repetition and over explanation. So this is a long story here, and to be honest, I think a lot of it could be pared down by tightening up the writing. There is an awful lot of repetition of concepts and ideas that really don’t need to be addressed over and over. The most obvious example to me is the discussion of Provincetown, site of one of the internment camps. The story relates what the town was like in better years, the changes that have come over it, and how what was once a place for gays to be out openly has now become a site of devastation and untold horrors. And this is really important and significant, but this same point is brought up numerous times throughout the book. This was the most noticeable example to me, but there were other places as well where I feel like we were repeating things that had already been conveyed and didn’t need to be readdressed.
Along similar lines, there is a lot of over explanation here. In some cases it is levels of detail that are not necessary, such as great specifics on a place that is not particularly important. For example, I don’t think we really need to know that the columns in Isaac’s apartment complex are 7 inches in diameter or that one sidewalk in particular is windy when the others are straight. I think the opulence of his home was important, but also could have been conveyed without nearly such lengthy detail. Or we get three chapters to introduce Samuel and lead up to a speech he gives, including one full chapter that basically describes his drive to the Moral Authority headquarters and what it looks like. In other passages, Mark explains the unjustness of many of the laws and regulations in place. Again, this is important to convey as sense of rightness and purpose to the resistance. But at times it felt like a lot of unnecessary explanation, especially to a readership who was sure to agree with Mark anyway on why homosexuality shouldn’t be outlawed or why controlling free speech is unconstitutional. I think the reason this all struck me is that this is a long story and the first 40% or so is really set up before the action really begins. So I think the book could have had more energy and excitement if things were tightened up without so much exposition.
And my last quibble is that epilogue. I can’t really explain why without spoiling things, but it felt totally out of nowhere. And even if it wasn’t (very mild spoiler)… [spoiler] I feel like it contradicts everything we are told about this person throughout the rest of the book. Not to mention, I am not sure this big reveal benefited the story in any way. [/spoiler] Instead it just sort of left me stunned and took away from the emotion of the regular end of the book.
A couple other things worth pointing out here, just so readers know what they are getting. First off, this isn’t a traditional romance. It is part of Wilde City’s Mainstream line, and while there is romantic interest between some of the characters, it is in no way a romance. Not only is there no HEA, there is no HFN either (something that is revealed in the Prologue). So don’t go into this one expecting a romance novel. It is a great story, but not a romance (nor is it supposed to be). I also want to mention that situation in the camps is incredibly horrific. Prisoners are raped, tortured, abused, and murdered and we are shown these atrocities on page and told about them very clearly. There were many passages I found difficult to read due to how awful the suffering is for these men. So again, be aware of what you are getting here. I don’t think anything was gratuitous, but there are also many parts that are not easy to handle.
So I was of mixed feelings on this one. Lots to like, especially in terms of the plot and the world building. I found the story Flores creates to be fascinating and terrifying and really well developed. I especially enjoyed the way he intertwines all the individual stories to create a big picture and takes things in directions I never expected. I think the writing itself needed some tightening and that the book loses some momentum to the repetition and excessive detail. But overall I think that this is a story I would recommend as the setup and the creativity are well quite well done.