Psynode, Marlee Jane Ward (2017)

Note: We don’t give star-ratings. We review in order to encourage the development of AusQueerYA, by deconstructing the good and the bad bits, to learn and grow as writers.

*mega spoilers*

The Blurb:

‘Having barely made it out of Orphancorp alive, Mirii is on a mission to find the most important babe in her life, Vu. Vu has been taken to ‘Psynode’, a secret facility operated by the mega-corp Allnode.

After wrangling her way into the Allnode warehouse as a picker, Mirii meets Rowe, the daughter of one of Allnode’s execs, who may just be the perfect person to help her with the mission.

But life at Allnode is far from cushy and Mirii has to battle her way through the dangers of her new job, the Corps that she knows are watching her and get to Vu before it’s too late.

Fast paced, gritty and original, Psynode follows on from Welcome to Orphancorp, winner of the 2016 Victorian Premier’s literary award for young adult fiction and confirms Marlee Jane Ward as one of Australia’s best YA authors.’

The Goods:

Marlee Jane Ward has a super original voice. This series is so far beyond anything else out there at the moment. Keeping with the whole ‘world is fucked’ theme, we are immediately thrown into the thick of it with Mirii. Mirii retains the same cavalier attitude as the previous book, but the world building has expanded to show a greater Sydney region of black-markets, overcrowded dorms and creepy corporate sectors. The journey Mirii goes through to save Vu is believable from a motivational perspective, though there are a few instances where things play out a bit too coincidentally. It was refreshing to see a character driven primarily by the type of love related to friendship and loyalty, rather than playing up the whole ‘love of my life’ type thing. Mirii feels like she has to try and save Vu because it is the right thing to do and if she doesn’t do it, who else would? She ‘like-likes’ Vu, obviously, but she doesn’t put Vu on a pedestal. Mirii recognises that the world is bigger than two babes who ‘like-like’ each other and that things are more complicated than that. This was realistic in terms of the Orphancorp upbringing and the solidarity between the babes and bru’s over all forms of authority.

As in Orphancorp, the text is full of diverse characters in terms of sexuality, race, gender and able/disabled bodies. From a Queer perspective, it was cool to see Mirii roll with her need for sexual contact (“Maybe something in me is missing or dulled and I gotta be touched hard, and often, so I can feel it. I figure if I’m safe and not hurting anyone, that’s okay, right?” BOOM. Yes.). Her affections are not limited to any particular gender/non-gender.  Mirii is such an incredible character in terms of her sexual confidence. I think I have a crush on Mirii.

While that part where Mirii killed Tane (in self-defence) was super fucked up, this was actually one of the most powerful scenes in a YA I’ve ever read. If the purpose of this scene was to make us feel like the system we operate within is completely fucked, then Ward HIT IT OUT OF THE PARK. I felt sick and terrified for a long time after reading this. I know this sounds like a ‘bad’ part, but I think the point of this series is to reveal the humanity that persists despite horrendous circumstances, even when doing the right thing leads to terrible outcomes. Mirii keeps on. She keeps following her gut, following what she believes is right, even when things go VERY badly for her, even when it seems impossible to save Vu, even when the whole world is screaming at her to give up: she listens to her gut.

That’s the brilliance of Marlee Jane Ward. They write from the gut.

To Be Improved:

I’m not 100% convinced by a few parts of this novel. Ward had a massive task in getting Mirii in and out of the Allnode complex and I really appreciated how hard it was for Mirii. It was awesome to see a main character get totally annihilated for their cause (I mean, it didn’t make me happy, but it was way more realistic than them coming out the other side with just a scratch). Mirii faces really confronting things and has to make horrible decisions, like having to stab someone to get past the security system. These parts were brilliant because I believed in Mirii’s motive. I believed her when she felt this course was the only one she could take, but it was hard to relate that same feeling with Lacey and The Collective. Who even are they? Why were they so gung-ho to help Mirii but never anyone before?

I think if there had been only Rowe or only Lacey, I wouldn’t have found it so coincidental. This wasn’t majorly off putting to the story, and I think if they hadn’t all been caught at the end, I might have had more of an issue, but as it stands this is more of a minor thing. Maybe book three will fill in some of the back story of The Collective and the future story of Rowe?

Tiny Problems:

Like Welcome to Orphancorp, Psynode is super tight, original, horrifying and brilliant. There are no major issues. Tiny problem: I was SO into Rowe’s awakening about how fucked up her Dad/entire world is that I now want a whole new book that charts Rowe’s evolution from spoiled rich kid to rebel fighter. Basically, the main problem with this is that there isn’t a book three yet. And Vu! She just appears there? Way to mess with all of our emotions.

In conclusion, read this.

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