211 pages. English translation of Spanish original.
This is a tale told by a nameless man, who lives in a country which is never specified. He comes from a laboring background, and by good fortune, has married an educated woman far above him in status. They live in a valley with forests and a garden.
The war has gone on for ten years now. He does not understand why they are at war, but is proud his two sons have earned medals serving their nation. The government has shut down social media (the Pulse), so they have no access to news. They have not heard from their sons in a long time. Their food supplies have almost run out.
They have secretly taken in a wounded, mute boy who stumbled into their garden. They eventually get the boy to respond to the name of Julio.
Suddenly, they learn that the few people left in their valley are being evacuated due to the advance of the enemy. After burning down their home, they are to board a bus that will take them to the Transparent City where all their needs will be taken care of.
Roughly the first third of the novel covers the journey to the Transparent City, the people they meet, and the trials they overcome, all the time trying to figure out what is really going on in the war. Next comes the Transparent City – which it turns out has transparent walls and floors, so that privacy is abolished. The protagonist is making observations all along about life and war and people, which the reader is left to agree or disagree with.
There are a few twists along the way, and at the end, the reader must decide for himself who was telling the truth.
I would classify this book as science-fiction as there is some advanced technology; but it also reads something like a modern-day fable. Or you could see it as commentary about social classes or utopias or the meaning of family and love. Fortunately, I never felt that the author was trying to push any particular viewpoint or ideology on the reader.
Can you game it? The general setting of people lost in a war they know nothing about, or the specific setting of the Transparent City, could easily be used in a gaming campaign. However, none of the military events in the book are anything you would put into a scenario.
Due to references to sex, this may not be an appropriate book for children. As translated, the protagonist speaks frankly and sometimes uses a vulgar word.
I found it to be an enjoyable and thoughtful read, but was let down by the mystical and confusing ending. If you prefer an author to explain everything by the last page, this isn't the book for you.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .