Epeolatry Book Review: Arch-Conspirator by Veronica Roth
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Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Mythology
Release Date: 21st, February, 2023
Synopsis: Outside the last city on Earth, the planet is a wasteland. Without the Archive, where the genes of the dead are stored, humanity will end.
Passing into the Archive should be cause for celebration, but Antigone’s parents were murdered, leaving her father’s throne vacant. As her militant uncle Kreon rises to claim it, all Antigone feels is rage. When he welcomes her and her siblings into his mansion, Antigone sees it for what it really is: a gilded cage, where she is a captive as well as a guest.
But her uncle will soon learn that no cage is unbreakable. And neither is he.
Around 441 BCE, Sophocles wrote his play, Antigone, about the headstrong daughter of Oedipus. Oedipus, famous in Greek mythology for mistakenly killing his father and marrying his mother, has passed on, leaving his four children to pick up the mess–two sons, Polynices and Eteocles, and two daughters, Ismene and Antigone. When the two sons kill each other over the throne, their uncle, Creon, takes over and declares Eteocles to be the rightful heir and Polynices, a terrorist. Eteocles is granted proper burial, while Polynices’ body is left to rot. Antigone, horrified at the treatment of her brother, risks everything to honour him.
Veronica Roth has taken this plot and transposed it into a dystopian future. Most of the world has been ravaged by radiation, and the human race faces extinction. Further complicating matters is a virus that infects anyone born naturally. The only way to have children is to implant the “ichor” of past generations into a womb. Having children in what we would consider the “natural” way, results in an abomination who has no soul. Rather than incest, this is the “sin” that Oedipus and his wife, Jocasta, make. I found this to be an interesting way to explore this tale. In doing so, Roth elevates Oedipus and Jocasta’s union from an uncomfortable mistake to an act of defiance and activism in a dying world.
The setting may be different, but the stakes are the same. At the core of this story is a brave, young woman, fighting for what she believes is right out of loyalty to her dead brother. Roth captured the essence of the original story well. Most of her characters are well-developed–she even grants a voice to the oft-ignored Eurydice, Creon’s wife. However, the two brothers die early in the story, and I would have preferred more time to invest in them and feel their deaths. Antigone is the star, of course, and she shone as the headstrong, defiant hero that I know from the play.
I am always interested in adaptations of mythology. These stories endure because they speak to us, and I enjoyed how Roth adapted this tale.
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Melody lives in Ontario, Canada and writes short, dark fiction. She has been published in several anthologies and online publications. In university, she studied Ancient Greek and Roman Studies and often infuses her work with elements of Greek mythology. She also loves reading, embroidery, and martial arts.