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by Anne-Marie Yerks

Rating: *****

Lush is set in a futuristic America of the 22nd Century. Isla Kiehl lives in the town of Naudiz, a historical community where she re-enacts past traditions and practices for tourists. However, when she is chosen by the CREIA organisation to possibly be selected as one of their prestigious cadets, a sinister nightmare begins to unfold and Isla wishes she could return to her simplistic former life.

I found Lush to be an absorbing and quietly powerful novel. Ms Yerks’ writing is beautiful; intricately woven and yet sharply driven with little superfluity. As the story develops, the narrative becomes inhabited by a creeping sense of foreboding. Even at the beginning, when we learn of her rural, almost bucolic existence, there is an apprehensive, disquieting atmosphere which is both intriguing and ominous; the forced, archaic routine at unsettling odds with the advanced nature of the age. There are enough subtle hints about Isla’s life and the governing administration/organisations, Lush and CREIA for the reader to deduce malevolent forces at work and you are immediately curious. When Isla is taken to CREIA’s campus, the story becomes nightmarishly dystopian. It’s fascinating and horribly compelling not only because of the chilling nature of the plot but because you are not sure who to trust or where the story is heading; the narrative has a number of possible avenues and this keeps the reader gripped. Ms Yerks’ charming writing cloaks the absolute horror of the CREIA campus and yet the elegance of the prose conversely also reinforces the monstrous nature of the place. The spiders, for example, were terrifying and more so for the fact they only appear on a couple of occasions and are described with such eloquent precision. For swathes of the novel, Isla is the only character and she carries the book capably. However, I did think she was occasionally a little superficial and lacking in emotion. Personally, I would have liked to have seen the relationship between herself and Averitt developed earlier. There were a couple of loose ends; Hollis and Ashleen seemed a touch unfinished although their incomplete stories did fit with the nebulous quality of the novel as a whole.

I was concerned that the conclusion would be either ridiculously far-fetched or merely evaporate into nothingness. Neither happened; it was a neat ending and I think one that worked well. The plot throws up a number of questions and the outcome, although seemingly tidy, still had me wondering, which personally I like.

Lush is a thought-provoking, beautifully written and engrossing novel that offers a retrospective and profound warning from a fictional future world that somehow seems very timely. Highly recommended. Buy from:

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