Everyone in Eleven Town has contracted an incurable and deadly disease, unsettling the strictly regimented society that has existed for longer than anyone can remember.
Deni, the narrator, finds himself in a doomed and childless marriage, watching his seventh wife slowly succumb to the disease. The purpose of marriage in Eleven Town is to produce children, and like everything else in the city, there are universally understood procedures and rules that must be followed, including taking young children from their parents to be raised by the government.
The rampant disease has weakened the authoritarian government, meaning there are fewer to enforce the rules. Still, Deni and most everyone else continue to adhere to the rules even as the illness decimates the population. What else do they know? Obviously the rules were put in place for a reason, and no one has ever had the temerity (or a reason) to ask why.
But things are about to change dramatically for Deni, who is also a member of a government team working on a project that just may save Eleven Town’s residents from the disease.
To say more would be to spoil for the new reader this wonderful novella, which reminded me of an episode of The Twilight Zone or the work of any number of esteemed sci-fi writers. Thought-provoking and packed with atmosphere, the author slowly peels away the facade of Eleven Town and each piece of new information serves to heighten the reader’s enjoyment.
This is my second experience with the work of author John-Paul Cleary (see my review of his excellent novel Convergent Space) and I am now even more impressed by his abilities. He crafts imaginative and intelligent stories, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. Eleven Town was the ideal way to start my reading adventure in 2013.
To learn more about Mr. Cleary, visit his blog.