A Feast for Flies by Leigh Harlen can easily be a one-afternoon-read, if you have a free afternoon. I enjoyed this novel over the course of three days.
This is the first novel I have read from the publisher Dancing Star Press, which has a nice mission statement.
Quote: "not only dragons can be eaten, but so can oppressive governments."
Well, this fits as a premise for this book for sure!
A Feast for Flies is a novel that - despite its shortness - serves with fleshed-out characters and a tight plot that never lets you go. The showdown might have been ten pages longer for my taste. Apart from that, the novel respects my time as a reader and doesn't feed me with anything unnecessary. Everything a great novel needs: It's there.
Zira's father has turned her in for money. She is a reader with special capabilities (read persons minds and memories and is also able to "eat" the memories, to the extent of only leaving a "drone" without any memories at all). As a reader, she has to work for the government, there is no choice.
But Zira would prefer to leave her ship The Golden Nova (she lives on a spaceship that has left a destroyed earth generations ago). She'd rather live on another space ship, the Oasis, and grow plants for the rest of her life. Preferably with Mar, her ex-girlfriend.
Zira has lots of problems, right from the beginning of the novel. With Bea, her (male) dog as her only friend, she pays a high price for rescuing a stranger woman, the sister of a felon she recently helped to convict.
All of a sudden, Zira's life and the life of her dog are in danger.
Trying to solve the problems, she runs into even deeper problems with three different groups working against each other and working against her, trying to involve Zira into their agendas.
Zira's only options seems to be to play the three opponents off against each other and try to build a new life with Mar.
There is a lot to like about the novel. I loved how the tension builds up. My first hook was Zira's life goal and the way I could feel her longing for leaving her job and her ship behind.
The plot then moves forward so fast that I could not help but engage with the novel. Plus, the relationships (especially with Bea, her dog and Marlyn, her Ex), were just convincing.
The worldbuilding bears lots of stuff to be frightened about, especially the convictions to have all your memories eaten up and end up as a "drone" without personality. This might not be a new sf idea, but still, it's a frightening one.
The description and metaphors of the mind reading were convincing. I like the description of the flies, although their part was not as big as the title might suggest.
There are also lots of sentences which are worth printing and putting on my wallpaper:
"Paulson's irritation was like bored fingers drumming on a desk, and the terror pouring off Curtis Farrow was an icy fist twisting her insides."
"She had an odd, very precise manner of speaking as if she took the time to carve and perfect each syllable before letting it pass her tongue".
Or how it felt to wake up next to somebody who's still dreaming for a Reader:
"In sleep, Marlyn's emotions and thoughts were fragmented. Hazy and dreamy and soothing, punctuated by the seeming nonsense imagery of dreams."