“Sometimes you stare into the future, and you don’t like anything you see.”
Arch-Conspirator by Veronica Roth
LENGTH: 112 pages
GENRES: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Fiction
PUBLISHER: Tor Books
RELEASE DATE: 21 February 2023
“I’m cursed, haven’t you heard?”
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.
Antigone’s parents – Oedipus and Jocasta – are dead. Passing into the Archive should be cause for celebration, but with her militant uncle Kreon rising to claim her father’s vacant throne, 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.
Everything felt empty and strange, like the world had ended and we had slept through it.
I’m not gonna lie; part of the reason that I read this novella was to see if Veronica Roth grew at all as a writer in the past ten or so years.
It appeared not. I was disappointed.
I also wanted to read this because I wanted to read this. It just sounded so interesting. I’m a sucker for retellings. I’m also a sucker for a well-written, post apocalyptic, science fiction story. And Arch-Conspirator sounded like the best of both worlds. I was genuinely excited to read it.
Alas, it fell short for me in several regards.
I’m very aware that this is inspired by Antigone, a Greek play written by Sophocles around 441 B.C. I’m also somewhat familiar with it, and I brushed up a little on it after reading Roth’s novella. And I will concede that she does… something with her retelling. Just not as much as she could have.
WARNING: This review is not necessarily “spoiler-free.”
First off, I have to talk about the thing that I hated the most about this: the first person perspectives. They weren’t unique enough, and they felt like the same narrator. If every new chapter hadn’t come with a new POV identifier, I’m not sure how long it would’ve taken me to figure out whose point of view said chapter was from. They were that indistinct.
(Except for Polyneikes, but he only has one POV chapter before he dies. And no, that isn’t a spoiler, considering how he’s dead before the play this is based on, Antigone, even starts. And even then, his chapter hardly feels that different from the other characters.)
But not all things are guaranteed for all people. That is the way of things.
Secondly, I also didn’t like how quickly Polyneikes and Eteocles are fridged. Yes, they die in the original, but if you’re choosing to add them to your narrative, you can at least try to make them into actual characters. Eteocles doesn’t even get a POV chapter! We never learn his motives and opinions about his choice to “betray” his siblings first-hand. And this is a book full of different first person perspectives! Why then wouldn’t you even bother to give him one!?! Instead we hear about what he probably thought from his siblings, none of whom seemed to be all that close to him.
Anyway, I have to stop it there before it becomes a bigger rant than it already is. (And it doesn’t even compare to the rant I went on to my partner last night, lol.)
Lastly, the world building. To put it frankly: it kind of sucked. I know what you’re going to say. This is a novella and It’s too short for real world building. So, I say to you: No. No it’s not. You can put at least the barest minimum into it.
I asked my father, once, why he chose to curse us before we were born.
Let me clarify a few things though. The setting is fine. It’s the other aspects of Roth’s world building that my problem resides.
My problem is: I don’t believe what Arch-Conspirator is selling. I don’t believe that Antigone is angry, even though the text tells me that she is, because it never shows it. I don’t believe the reasons put out about why this society believes that Antigone and her siblings don’t have souls, but that stored DNA and genes do, because it’s not shown enough. This is also a huge problem with Roth’s other work, Divergent, and it is very prevalent here as well. Show don’t tell please!
Anyway, that’s it for this review. Arch-Conspirator wasn’t necessarily better written than the Divergent series, but at least it was short. People who like Veronica Roth’s stuff will probably like it though.
As always, thank you so much for reading, and have a great day/night!
See ya ~Mar