Writer: M.F. Gibson
Publisher: Thinking Toy Press
Release Date: March 12, 2019
“This was the most pathetic End of the World we could have possibly imagined: the human race was missing its own fireworks.”
Babylon Twins is the first book in a YA sci-fi trilogy from M.F. Gibson. The world is under attack. A nano-engineered super-drug has been released on humanity. Cities are dangerous. Technology is to be feared. Survival means going off the grid. Accordingly, the Yetti family has been living in the woods for 10 years, living off of what Mother Oggy (er, Earth) provides. Hunting, preserving, and strength-training have given them a routine over this last decade. However, when a robotic Santa (yes, you read that right) trespasses on their land, Mama Yetti realizes something must have changed in Yerba City (formerly, San Franscico). So, off sets Mama (a former scientist who knows quite a bit about the super-drug) for the city, leaving her twin girls and son behind.
The 18-year-old girls are the protagonists of this story. Cloe (Clo) and Elizabeth (El), having lived most of their lives in the woods, are not the most sociable or friendly people. They’d rather fight than chat, and they don’t really trust anyone but each other — to the point that they have their own cryptophasic twin language. Their brother Dyre (in his early teens) spends most of this first book in a catatonic stupor, so there’s not too much to say about him. Due to said stupor — caused by a possessed robotic monster deer — Clo and El leave to follow their mother to the city, hoping to find healing for Dyre. This journey occupies much of Babylon Twins, as the trio encounter Jolly Ranchers and Tik-Toks, as well as addicts and a whole lot of spiders and tentacled-creatures.
Babylon Twins is not lacking in imagination. Gibson has created a rich post-apocalyptic world, full of whimsical AI creatures, bizarre landscapes, and dangerous threats. The danger here, however, is not exactly what you’d expect. In short, the super-drug creates a world full of addicts. However, it does not do so without one’s consent, so the stakes are unusually … low. And this is one of the parts that left me wanting. Sure, there’s danger, but it just felt slow in its lack of urgency. Additionally, for an interesting addiction narrative, the novel never dives deep enough into addiction or seems to take it seriously. I craved more depth and philosophical musing, but it never happened.
Likewise, let’s talk about the lack of compelling characters. Clo and El were — for lack of more eloquent phrasing — very, very annoying. Their “we’re too tough for you” attitude was grating, and it’s hard to connect to two characters that are so alike in their inhumaneness. Clo’s obsession with finding a boy and immediately saying she loves him and is willing to risk everything for him was … weird — and not in the good, quirky way. I just wasn’t sure what to make of these two! And the supporting characters they meet along the way, like Clo’s love interest Tobias (who is deaf, but magically never ever has any trouble at all reading lips) and Maynor (who escorts them through the city), fall incredibly flat. No one seems real; so no one is relatable. As mentioned earlier, Gibson’s world-building skills are fantastic, and I truly do enjoy the punk-rock vibe of Babylon Twins, but I need strong characters, and I don’t get that here.