The city of Parole is burning. Like Venice slips into the sea, Parole crumbles into fire.
The entire population inside has been quarantined, cut off from the rest of the world, and left to die – directly over the open flame. Eye in the Sky, a deadly and merciless police force ensures no one escapes. Ever. All that’s keeping Parole alive is faith in the midst of horrors and death, trust in the face of desperation… and their fantastic, terrifying, and beautiful superhuman abilities.
Regan, stealth and reconnaissance expert with a lizard’s scales and snake’s eyes, is haunted by ten years of anxiety, trauma and terror, and he’s finally reached his limit. His ability to disappear into thin air isn’t enough: he needs an escape, and he’ll do anything for a chance. Unluckily for him, Hans, a ghostly boy with a chilling smile, knows just the thing to get one. It starts with a little murder.
But instead of ending a man’s life, Regan starts a new one of his own. He turns away from that twisted path, and runs into Evelyn, fearless force on stage and sonic-superheroic revolutionary on the streets. Now Regan has a choice – and a chance to not only escape from Parole, but unravel the mystery deep in its burning heart. And most of all, discover the truth about their own entwining pasts.
They join forces with Evelyn’s family: the virtuosic but volatile Danae, who breathes life into machines, and her wife Rose, whose compassionate nature and power over healing vines and defensive thorns will both be vital to survive this nightmare. Then there’s Zilch, a cool and level-headed person made of other dead people, and Finn, one of Parole’s few remaining taxi drivers, who causes explosions whenever he feels anything but happy.
Separately they’d never survive, much less uncover the secret of Parole’s eternally-burning fire. Together, they have a chance. Unfortunately, Hans isn’t above playing dirty, lying, cheating, manipulating… and holding Regan’s memories hostage until he gets his way.
Parole’s a rough place to live. But they’re not dead yet. If they can survive the imminent cataclysmic disaster, they might just stay that way…
Such. Great. Rep. The stars of Chameleon Moon, and of my heart, make up a superb, inclusive and intersectional cast. I felt a lot of feels for Regan especially. An anxiety-riddled asexual polyamorous lizard man with induced amnesia, he’s hardly got an easy time of it. But he tries so gosh darn hard to be his best self, despite his shadowed past and the influence of certain ghost children. And Rose, Evelyn and Danae’s polyamorous relationship was so incredibly heartwarming and strong. I’ve never considered polyamory (though tbh it’s not like I’ve really considered couple-dom either), but reading this family felt like coming home. Reading this book felt like coming home. This is probably the first time I’ve ever read serious poly rep, and I’m definitely interested in reading more!
There’s a lot going on here, a big cast and a lot of individual stories, but it never feels overcrowded. All these diverse characters are clearly written with care and love and skill. They’re all realised so fully, so that even though Regan is probably technically the main character, I’d count pretty much everyone as being on the premier list. Everyone has their own pasts and traumas, their own coping strategies and dreams for the future. I particularly loved Danae, Evelyn and Rose’s strength of conviction, their unquestioning support not only for each other but for perfect strangers (or maybe not quite so unquestioning in Danae’s case!), and their protective love for their son.
But aside from this gorgeous, powerful cast who are determined to see the positives and strive towards a better future, this is serious business. When I read the premise of Chameleon Moon, I thought “huh. Perpetually burning city setting. Cool.” It is not cool. Parole is actually quite warm. And poisoning its inhabitants slowly. Not cool. And the consequences of the setting are taken seriously – this world feels real. Everything from the water shortage to the need for gas masks, to Radio Angel warning the citizens of malicious activity and sinkholes while trying to keep their spirits up, speaks to a bold, fully realised setting. I felt the claustrophobia of these characters as they struggled to build better, safer lives for their loved ones.
The lead-up to the end did feel a little chaotic to me as all the threads came together – but that might have just been because I literally couldn’t put Chameleon Moon down, and stayed up far too late to finish it! I love everyone in this book. Even Hans, in the end. And especially Rose’s t-shirt! Where can I get one of those? There are definitely a lot more stories to be told here, and I can’t wait to dive into the short stories of Parole which have already been published.
Where do I start? Asexuality, polyamory, transgender character, physical disability (loss of limb), PTSD, panic attacks and anxiety, a mute character, people of colour, non-binary characters… by my count, Chameleon Moon could potentially fill nine – NINE! – squares of #DiversityBingo2017 all by itself. This is how you do diversity.
Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver was originally published in 2014. The edition I read and reviewed was published in October 2016. You can buy it from Amazon here.