Title: Cruel and Unusual
Author: C.E. Wilson
Review: The opening chapter to Cruel and Unusual was very intriguing, we are introduced to Malcolm Davenport who is serving prison time for a crime he is too ashamed to speak of, under a new government project called Project Isolation where inmates are holed up on islands of Alaska. These inmates are grouped by gender so Malcolm only has one neighbor Flynn and the wardens for company, beside that he is completely alone. I was intrigued straight away and wanted to know why Malcolm was there and what he had done and I hope it will be revealed a little later on in the novel. One thing I really liked about this series of books is that each can be read as a stand alone novel, so will I haven’t yet read Untitled Beauty I can still read this book.
I liked the relationship between Flynn and Malcolm, its tense and sometimes hilarious but its there, while we don’t know what either man has done to end up on the island we can assume it was something bad. Things take an interesting turn when one of the wardens Janet mentions to Malcolm that there are international tensions over this new type of punishment and the new elect is using spy drones to keep an eye on the island and she warns him to look out for suspicious activity. Just like Janet predicted some strange things begin to happen on Malcolm and Flynn’s island and neither have any clue what is actually happening. A strange thing crashes onto the island, Malcolm thinks its an animated doll at first but it talks and cries and insists its a real person. This person is called Verity and Malcolm seems to take a liking to her despite their rocky start this might be because he hasn’t really been near a woman in years or because he actually likes her, but one thing is certain as we cross the 1/4 mark in the novel is that nothing is what it seems on these islands.
Malcolm and Verity have a kind of love/hate relationship at first but they begin to relate to one another especially since both have dark pasts that they don’t really want to reveal just yet. Despite their slightly turbulent relationship Malcolm has a strong desire to protect Verity especially for Flynn. As Malcolm and Verity get to know each other better Malcolm decides that she is going to be the first person he reveals his secret to about why he is on the island. As Malcolm reveals his past to Verity, I personally felt that what happened for him to end up on the island wasn’t warranted, Malcolm didn’t deserve that. I see what happened as an accident and Mauve more than anyone else was to blame as she provoked Malcolm into doing what he did. As we approach the half way mark in the novel, Malcolm finally admits to Verity that he likes her and wants to keep her around and even wants to hold her like the woman she is despite only being a foot tall but she has her own issues and refuses his affection but stays anyway.
It also comes to light that Verity is the “spy drone” that Janet told Malcolm to look out for, and like Malcolm she begins to talk about her own past and how she came to be on the island. Verity is an AI of sorts, she was human and her consciousness was transferred into the body she has now as we many others and they were trained and designed to be spies but someone helped her and some others escape but she got lost and crashed on the island. Malcolm realizes that she may be his only chance of getting off the island for good, she is his chance at redemption. I was really rooting for the unusual relationship between Verity and Malcolm until Mauve calls him and says she will be coming to visit him for the first time, and he selfishly forgets all about Verity in his Mauve induced star-struck coma. When Mauve visits Malcolm is so happy thinking she has forgiven him and will takes him back but he is only half right, she has forgiven him but she doesn’t want him anymore. It is only then that Malcolm realizes that he wants Verity yet she is nowhere to be seen and she doesn’t return home that night either.
Much to my surprise as a reader Verity does return and finally tells Malcolm she feels the same way about him and it took Mauve’s visit to make her realize that and despite their differences and fears they both learn to love each other. But things take a dramatic turn when Verity’s counterpart is found and captured by the government and Flynn already told them Malcolm’s “doll” matches the exact description of the other AI. When they come to recover her Verity is hiding and Malcolm denies her existence, but her feelings for him end up destroying everything between them. But even when Verity is gone there is a spark of hope that she will come back to Malcolm and he holds onto this hope for as long as it takes.
Overall, I loved this novel but the rather abrupt ending left me a little irked and I really hope there is a continuation to this novel. I highly recommend this book to all sci-fi and dystopian lovers but also for readers who like an unusual romance. A highly recommended 4* novel, but it could have done with either an epilogue or a better fleshed-out ending, to tie things up nicely for a stand alone novel or to make a proper opening for a sequel.
This book was sent to me for review consideration by the author
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Also see: Untitled Beauty by C. E. Wilson