Book Reviews

Dryland's End (City on a Star 1) by Felice Picano at ReQueered Tales

Genre Gay / Queer / Science Fiction / Cyborgs / Fiction
Reviewed by ParisDude on 17-May-2021

Book Blurb

Five thousand years in the future, life itself is in jeopardy!

A rebellion of intelligent Cybernetic servants has left the Females of the galaxy virtually sterile, crippling the controlling political body – the Matriarchy. The race is on to find a solution, but will it be enough to save the Matriarchy as other galactic authorities attempt to dominate them using sabotage and all-out war? Dryland's End is Felice Picano’s science fiction adventure for the new millennium. The novel touches on many of today's most controversial subjects, such as interracial relationships, gender conflicts, gender identity, and same-sex pairings-and views them with a lens toward the future.



First edition published in 1995. This new edition features a foreword by the author.


Book Review

‘Dryland’s End’ is a truly epic sci-fi saga (726 pages for the printed version, no less, with two more instalments scheduled for release in 2021 and 2022) that can be read as a stand-alone novel. I wouldn’t call it a space opera—those come with a bit more über-grandiose oomph and gesturing, larger-than-life heroes, and operesque plots—but rather an intriguing tale of what could be. It’s a meditation on the rise and fall of a special political-societal universe where women have all the power, men playing a merely subservient role as procreators and “amusers”, if I may use this word. Picture our galaxy five thousand years from now. Three species coexist in the universe Felice Picano depicts: foremost are the Humes (which one presumes are the greatly enhanced successors of us humans), who together with the wasp-like Bella=Arthropods and the Delphinids form a triad that has learned to live peacefully together for the last thousand years. They’re held together by a matriarchial system I’d call “soft dictatorship” and that looks very much like a pyramidal empire based on a (female) warrior caste and myriads of administrative officials, with Her Matriarchy Wicca Eighth at the top in the role of supreme ruler.


The development and expansion of the three species is made possible by a very rare mineral, which allows ultrafast-speed travels and other technological wonders. The raw material is mined on an autonomous world of traders that has carefully remained outside the Matriarchy system and is ruled by an oligarchical council, the Quinx, that consists of the most rich and influential of its citizens. The high-speed travel combined with AI and robots has allowed the Matriarchy to seed remote planets, and the exceedingly long life-spans of the Humes enable them to wait one or two generations before they can see the fruits of their Seeding.


The main character of the novel, Ay’r Kerry Sanq, is sent on a mission to one of these half-forgotten Seeded Worlds by Wicca Eighth herself. In fact, the Matriarchy is at war with renegade Cybers—a group of machines led by an AI that has gained consciousness. Those renegades have found refuge on a space station and, as a first act of war, have released an infertility virus that makes almost all the women in the system sterile and therefore jeopardizes not only the Matriarchy but the survival of Hume-kind itself.


This, in a nutshell, is the starting situation of the novel. As you can see, the mere attempt of summing up the world invented by Picano is already a difficult task (and I’m not sure I have done an adequate job). The book is full of plots, subplots, intrigues and counter-intrigues, twists and turns that kept me not only busy turning pages in a half frenzy—once I started reading, I couldn’t stop—but also in awe. Planning and writing a book on such a scale, with so many strings weaving in and out of one another, with so many characters, so many levels and shades, is a titanic undertaking. Especially if the author has at heart to not lose his readers after a few pages. Felice Picano succeeded in that, no doubt.


Of course, in his introduction, he warns the readers that they might find it hard to get used to the invented futuristic slang; but I have read my fair share of sci-fi, dystopias, utopias, uchronias, etc., so it didn’t take me long to adapt. I admit that it was a pleasure reading this author’s easy-flowing, generous prose, follow his fertile imagination, discover his perfect worldbuilding skills, thoroughly needed in this sort of fiction, and accompany the characters on their journey, most of which I found intriguing, some of them even very endearing (namely the characters encountered on the sole continent Ay’r discovers on the Seeded planet). Some linguistical tics seemed a bit odd and made the sentences unnecessarily hard to read, notably the use of periods in frequently used abbreviations such as “Holo-comm.” (for holographic communications) or “Inter. Gal. Comm. Networks” (intergalactic communication networks), to quote but these two. More often than not, when terms become common enough, periods tend to be dropped even in writing (e.g. sax, rec room, admin, even acronyms like TMI, FYI, asap…). What I also regretted was that I had a hard time imagining one of the three species, that is the Delphinids (they are virtually absent from the book whereas I was able to paint a vivid mental picture of the arthropods, for example).


But these are minor niggles. The novel was really an amazing discovery with almost visionary depth and a unique setting not only in terms of remote and strange planets—something you always expect when reading science fiction—but also in terms of relationships (throuples are the thing-to-have in this imaginative universe) or societal norms (homosexual interactions are not only encouraged but endorsed, heterosexuality is frowned upon). An interesting (and probably quite plausible) take was the premise that even if you change the gender of the ruling caste and invert the power dichotomy (women in top positions, men in subservient ones), the outcome tends to be the same. This is shown throughout the book with perfect consistency. For fans of inventive science fiction with a political-philosophical twist, this is the perfect read.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by the editor for the purpose of a review.


Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 726 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 23-March-2021
Price $5.95 ebook, $24.95 paperback
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