The Threat Below

26173407

Author: Jason Latshaw

Publication: 2015, Fernway Books

Pages: 503

Overall Rating: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Rating for Action: bth_25_zps13f4f4eb[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_2-star-rating-1_zps4cdc0d23[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Nearly 300 years ago a terror now known only as the Threatbelows drove humanity to the brink of extinction. The last remaining survivors took refuge at the top of a mountain, having learned that the Threatbelows cannot exist in such thin air. But now their water supply has been poisoned, and for the first time in generations a small group, that includes 17 year old Icelyn Brathius, must leave their sanctuary and descend the mountain to confront the threat that decimated their ancestors.

Age of Main Character: 17

What I Liked the Most: The remnants of humanity live in a tiny, isolated world – 100 people stuck at the top of a mountain surrounded by spindly trees and rock. They have books, and a remnant of the knowledge that came up the mountain with them. But the society they’ve created is something wholly new and Latshaw does a masterful job of world building here both in describing their community and in helping us to understand WHY it’s so drastically different than the one they left behind. Iceyln’s village of Mountaintop is divided into two classes – the Cognates (or intellectuals) and the Veritas (or workers). Each group is strictly limited in size and because the Cognates are believed to have rescued humanity when the soldiers and police could not, they live at the top of the chain, lording it over the Veritas in a hundred different ways, all written into a Code that governs every aspect of their life. There is no religion (at least among the Cognates), no singing, no sex. A narrow, colorless and carefully prescribed world of law, order, and reason that stands in sharp contrast to the color, chaos, danger, and extreme religious beliefs Icelyn encounters when she travels to the base of the mountain.

The nature of the Threatbelows, where they come from, how they were created, and how that all ties directly back to Icelyn was equally fascinating and – without ever getting preachy – ends up pushing us to contemplate such weighty subjects as the dangers of hubris, the value of scientific detachment, and the very real possibility that we as humans might someday invent ourselves into extinction.

What I Liked the Least: I think it’s fair to say that as creative and wonderfully detail oriented as Latshaw could be, there were still aspects of the story that didn’t entirely make sense. SPOILER ALERT – I will be revealing information here that not all of you may want to see.

To begin with, it apparently takes 300 years for the Threatbelows to come up with the relatively simple idea of poisoning the water supply, despite the fact that they seem otherwise quite intelligent. That didn’t really add up. And to be honest, when I learned that the poisoning was real I was kind of shocked, since for much of the first half of the book it felt more like a poorly disguised ploy by one of the cognates to discredit the Chief Cognate and take power for himself.

My other problem was that the Threatbelows are simply too perfect to be believed. The science that went into their creation blasted past so many existing barriers – making them resistant to disease, telepathic, all but immortal – that is hard to believe they could really have been created in a world where scientists hadn’t yet managed to make a single one of those advances among people. I just didn’t buy it.

Still, those are small concerns and as a reader it was easy enough to put them aside and enjoy the story.

How Good was the Action? Honestly, there’s not a lot in the way of action here. There are one or two bloody fights, but they’re brief and Iceyln doesn’t really participate in any of them directly, so even then we only see the action from a distance.

How Engaging was the Story? There are several intertwining stories here – Icelyn’s descent and her encounters with the Threatbelows, a power struggle back home in Mountaintop, a split within the Threatbelows, and more. Not all of these stories are carried out with equal success, but Icelyn’s tale is very well done and the political intrigue within Mountaintop is both interesting and believable enough to make for an intriguing break from her adventures.

Overall Assessment: A fascinating premise surrounded by lush world building and heady ethical dilemmas. It’s a hefty read, but well worth the investment.

Profanity: None.

Sex: A chaste kiss, but nothing more.

Violence: Some. The Threatbelows kill by disemboweling their human prey, and that does happen. But it’s not especially graphic or bloody. We feel the grief and anger that surround these deaths, but don’t get much in the way of real violence.

Comments

  1. Thank you for reading the book and writing this thoughtful, engaged review. I appreciate it more than you can know. As for the “why” when it comes to the poisoning of Mountaintop taking so long… That will be explored and explained in book 2, which should hit shelves in the summer of 2016!

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