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The Visionary Free e-book

Reviewed by Cassie Widjaja for Readers’ Favorite

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The Visionary by J.C. Gemmell is an incredible dystopian young adult science fiction book that’s bound to blow your mind. At the beginning of February 2060, Mount Erebus erupted, the first in a chain of Antarctic volcanoes that forever changed the world as we know it. Quickly, sea levels began to rise, claiming coastlines worldwide and drowning approximately two billion people. When seawater rushes to claim her beloved Guangzhou City, our bright protagonist Xin-yi flees her home with her mother, settling in a community of rice farmers. Growing restless, she agrees to the chance of a new life as a visionary in training. Her task is simple and yet undeniably complex as she has to imagine a new Earth rising above the rising waters. Coming to terms with the loss of her brother and unexpected feelings toward her friend, Xin-yi has to choose between working to save humanity or her almost lover’s devout belief.

Drawing attention to society’s pressing issues such as climate change and rising sea levels, J.C. Gemmell gives us a glimpse of a terrible future that’s more of a possibility than anyone credits. The Visionary also showcases humanity’s brilliant innovation under pressing needs of survival. From watching Xin-yi’s denial in her grief to accepting and letting go of her brother Sheng, it was incredibly satisfying to see her grow as a character. While Xin-yi is undeniably flawed, I still admired her for pushing through life and refusing to give up. The concept behind the names of the novel’s chapters is an intriguing twist on the Chinese zodiac. A perfect blend of futuristic gadgets and dystopian society, The Visionary is a must-read!
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Reviewed by Kevin E. Carlson for Writing in Obscurity

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Today Obscurists, we’re talking about a fairly unsettling dystopian sci-fi by J.C. Gemmell called “The Visionary.” And it’s a no thanks from me on the vision of the future that visionary comes up with in this story.

What I love about this book:

It’s a deeply unsettling and scary story when you get right down to it. I like things that can get under my skin because most stories don’t fill me with dread anymore; often, the best they can do is startle me. “The Visionary,” though, isn’t scary because of the all-too-real sounding natural disaster that takes place, or even the raw violence and disarray that inevitably happens when a dark age kicks off during an apocalypse. No, it’s the society that “builds back better,” if you will—that is cold and alien—that creeps me out.

There is a lot of intrigue in this story, more so than I expected when I started reading it. Most scenes have at least two layers to them, what is happening and being said on the surface and what people’s actual intentions are underneath all of that.

I listened to this novella in its audiobook format because, well, naturally, I did if you’re a repeat reader of this blog. In any case, Jennifer Aquino has a subtle trick to her narration that I absolutely adored, and that is staying true to the sound of her characters’ voices while simultaneously demonstrating how they’ve aged throughout the story. Part of it is the material Gemmell gave her to work with, but there is also that performer’s flourish of how, especially, Xin-yi sounds as a girl vs. as a woman. Many narrators go wrong here by exaggerating, but Aquino uses the same voice with only modest modifications to tone and pacing, which I feel is way more impactful.

What I don’t love about this book:

I don’t love Xin-yi, and I don’t mean this as a criticism or that she’s poorly written as a character. I think she’s written wonderfully—I just don’t like her much as a person. As a protagonist, she has an arc and grows as a person, and who she comes out as—when everything is said and done—is someone I don’t like all that much. I suspect, Xin-yi herself doesn’t like Xin-yi all that much toward the end, but I can’t get too much into it in the non-spoiler side of things.

Stylistically, I think this story is as ambitious as any other big sci-fi story, but I don’t have a real good grasp of the rules of this world—or even a well-defined concept of how the super science of this universe works. For instance, despite reading a whole novella about them, I still don’t precisely understand what is it that visionaries do exactly or how their powers work.

There are explanations for things and technology, but they are primarily just surface-level stuff that ranges from the mysticism of “Star Wars” to the technobabble of “Star Trek.” It’s a minor complaint because the story’s point isn’t necessarily to focus on the technology featured but how an engineered society rebuilds.
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Reviewed by Anneliese Dahl on Goodreads

The Visionary by JC Gemmell is an amazing, dramatic tale of incredible scope that builds upon a natural disaster triggering climate change to create a complex vision of the future. Some might see this future starting out as a utopian dream, but in reality it becomes a frightening dystopian possibility of science gone to extremes.

Xin-yi’s family is torn apart in the flood that occurs from the melting of Antarctic ice after the volcanic eruption of the “Dragon” Erebus. We see everything from the perspective of Xin-yi, who is believably unusual and suitable as a “Visionary”, those destined to shape the future. Though her selection is not explained, her personality itself (perhaps an unreliable narrator lost in her own mind) often seems to see things in a somewhat inhuman way, further fostered by the unusual life she leads in which a bionic implant is the greatest influence in her life. The changes proposed, and implemented, for the world are grand and spectacular, taking humanity into an amazing direction of potentiality. However, true to human weaknesses, it ends up being a grandiose way to create an amazing future for the wealthy elites of the world who can live immortal in the heavens of a newly-reformed earth.

I enjoyed this book tremendously, the writing style with the running internal monologue of Xin-yi, the mind-bending concepts of world reshaping, and the inhuman decisions taken on as natural progressions of a utopian plan. And Xin-yi herself seems to straddle the boundary between human and inhuman, though we love her enough to hope that perhaps she will eventually achieve her full humanity. Gemmell does an amazing job with this story.
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Reviewed by D.H. Nevins on Amazon

Great for fans of speculative and science fiction

This story introduces the author's Tion series.

The Visionary has a compelling start. Readers watch through the eyes of 12 year old Xin-yi, as flood waters rise and claim the coastal areas. An altered climate follows, and Earth is devastated.

It's fascinating to see things from the protagonist's perspective, as this young girl and a small group of people are cut off from the rest of the world. Their lives become farming, but Xin-yi yearns for more. Eventually, she gets her wish and we follow her somewhat lonely path as she becomes a Visionary - one who works to recreate a new and better world. It's a fascinating journey, watching her reimagine the world while grappling with her own ambition and morality.

Gemmell is a skilled storyteller, letting the readers learn any needed information and backstory as Xin-yi discovers it - from her teacher and from visitors to her village when she is young, and from her colleagues and her love interest when she is older. Therefore, the world building is done organically and expertly, and plot points develop naturally. I felt immersed, learning what I needed to learn while the story developed.

This is, in my opinion, speculative fiction at its finest and most intriguing. It sprouts from apocalyptic fiction, establishes a foothold in science fiction, and then the story launches itself out from dystopian. It maintains elements of each genre, yet it is the clever, science fiction concepts and world-building that make this story such a fascinating reading experience. The rebuilding of Earth (and their conceptualization of it) is as imaginative as it is complex. I enjoyed the story thoroughly and highly recommend it to fans of speculative and science fiction.
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