“Scorched” sizzles as a science fiction sensation
ARTS & CULTURE EDITOR
“Scorched” is the self-published novel by Michael Soll that takes readers to uncharted territory in a post-apocalyptic, underground world. The title reflects the devastation and incineration of the Earth’s atmosphere, which has forced the human survivors to establish civilizations beneath the Earth’s surface.
Soll, a recent UCLA graduate who has been recognized for his achievements in screenplay writing as a PAGE International Screenwriting contest winner and finalist in Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope contest, asserts his strength in the novel by showcasing his detail-oriented writing style. His intricate descriptions of the underground civilizations answer all of the reader’s questions, such as how the humans are able to breathe, what they use for light and food, and the specific societal roles for the characters in the story.
The main avenue through which he successfully paints a picture of an entirely foreign world is by following three teenagers desperate for adventure: Spec, Cotta, and Kaolin. Having lived their entire lives underground in one colony, they seek to break out of the monotonous cycle of their everyday lives. Spec, above all, longs to experience life outside of his world and dreams of one day reaching the surface, unafraid of the potentially lethal consequences.
The longing for freedom and pursuit of one’s own curiosities are two important central themes in the novel. Soll illustrates them through the use of first-person narrative, which begins with Spec and eventually shifts between different characters in different civilizations. While the technique is effective in revealing the characters’ inner desires, the narrative voice often switches between one of youth and naivety and one of a very scientific nature. There is also a tendency for the narrator, specifically the main protagonist Spec, to reveal the themes in awkward philosophical statements such as when he states, “I’d rather have my light extinguished than never having been lit.”
Though the subtle shifts in voice can be distracting at times, it does not detract from the otherwise engaging and compelling survival story that Soll has accomplished in “Scorched.” Where the story succeeds is in its unquestionable originality and believability in both the setting and its characters. This again points back to Soll’s attention to detail and overall storytelling abilities. Each introduction of a new civilization draws the reader in because they want to learn about the people, the customs and the various knowledge that exists in each society. It is a fascinating recolonization of the human race that puts familiar creatures with familiar feelings in very unfamiliar situations.
At its core, “Scorched” is a novel about humanity and finding one’s place in the world. This is a theme that any adolescent can relate to and undoubtedly is a driving force in the book being once ranked number one on Amazon’s top 100 free list for Young Adult Action and Adventure. Anyone who is a fan of science fiction and post-apocalyptic literature will find great pleasure in it and should definitely read it. The book is available for free download and can also be purchased off of the Amazon website in paperback for $8.85.