Thursday, October 26, 2017
The Hope Store, by Dwight Okita @dwightokita
A poet and playwright, Dwight Okita’s debut novel, The Prospect of My Arrival, a finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, was one of the more absorbing sci fi novels I’ve ever read. So, I was quite intrigued when I saw he had a new novel out, The Hope Store.
But First, THE BLURB:
Two Asian American men, Luke and Kazu, discover a bold new procedure to import hope into the hopeless. They vow to open the world's first Hope Store. Their slogan: "We don't just instill hope. We install it." The media descend. Customer Jada Upshaw arrives at the store with a hidden agenda, but what happens next no one could have predicted. Meanwhile an activist group called The Natural Hopers emerges warning that hope installations are a risky, Frankenstein-like procedure and vow to shut down the store. Luke comes to care about Jada, and marvels at her Super-Responder status. But in dreams begin responsibilities, and unimaginable nightmares follow. If science can't save Jada, can she save herself -- or will she wind up as collateral damage?
Okita’s cerebral yet poetic prose is gentle and approachable, even when depicting the harsher realities of his worlds. Set in a Chicago of the future, the story opens with Jada Upshaw, an amazing, multidimensional character. A well-educated woman, Jada is, at the outset, intent on killing herself. Her despair and confused emotional state is laid bare, but shown with the delicacy and respect Okita brings to all his characters.
Luke Nagano describes himself as “a boy with a big heart but no idea where to put it.” This holds true through the entire novel, as Luke himself is the embodiment of hope. Of Japanese descent, Luke is a native of Chicago, and is deeply rooted in Midwestern American culture. He is deeply in love with Kazu Mori, a rock-star scientist from Tsukuba, Japan. Luke’s thoroughly American blundering through life causes him to make occasional missteps, inadvertent cross-cultural clashes which create tension. Kazu is forgiving, but is completely dedicated to his work. Their love/work relationship drives the plot, also creating tension.
The relationships and thoughts of both Jada and Luke are shown throughout the narrative, but Luke and Jada still have secrets from the reader, keeping me turning the pages.
Okita shows the actual science behind the Hope installation with masterful strokes. Instead of devolving into a drawn-out explanation that most readers would skip, he offers just enough information about the key elements, a framework for the reader to hang their imagination on.
Beyond the great characters and the futuristic setting is the deeper story. Hope, the lack of it, the desire for it, and the lengths we will go to acquire it is what drives this tale. Intrigues, private agendas, and in some cases, desperation drive the story to a satisfying, logical, yet still surprising, finish.
I highly recommend The Hope Store. I found it cerebral, sexy, and thought-provoking, as all Okita’s work is.