Mash up I, Claudius with The Terminator and you’ll have a decent idea of the plot of The Diabolic. Set in a universe where religion has displaced the science that led to intergalactic colonization. No longer are advances made and the aging ships and technology are no longer replaceable. Kincaid’s novel presents a highly stratified society, with noble houses and wealthy families living decadence lives while controlling the Excesses (working population). Echoes of the Roman Empire abound. An understanding that their world is falling apart (literally and figuratively) because the religious zealots and those who use the religion to further strengthen their own position refuse to allow learning and science lead some to rebel.
Thrown into this subtle, political game is Nemesis, a Diabolic. The rulers and powerful citizens created Diabolics, physically advanced humans bred and raised to protect and bond with their owner at any cost. They are obedient, subservient, and blood-thirsty, willing to kill and die for the one they bond with. We learn in the opening of the novel the Emperor ordered all Diabolic destroyed, but one Senator, knowing his daughter thinks of Nemesis as a sister, cannot bear to destroy Nemesis and hurt Sidonia
Kincaid has created an interesting, conflicted protagonist in Nemesis —genetically engineer bond with Sidonia, and behaviorally conditioned to violence. The Senator pushes ideas the Emperor considers seditious and while the Senator has not openly rebelled, he still attracts the ire of the Emperor. Sidonia is called to the capital, essentially to serve as a political hostage. In an effort to protect her, Nemesis goes in Sidonia’s place, after lessons to help her be more human-like.
The plot is filled with political scheming, characters maneuvering for position and power, and horrible acts of suppression and retribution committed by the emperor, while the meaning of humanity and soul, as well as class and servitude, is explored through the protagonist as she navigates through the strange customs, violence, plots, deceits, and intrigues of the capital. Her interactions with the mad heir of the Empire, the Emperor’s mother, and others as well and no longer being able to physically protect Sidonia challenges Nemesis’ self-conception and what she has always believed is her purpose.
The novel is action filled and full of twists and turns, making Nemesis question everything she grew up believing, as well as forcing her to use more than violence to survive.
For the most part, Kincaid balances the external and internal conflicts, allowing the both the world and the character to flesh out without sacrificing one at the expense of the other. There are, however, moments of predictability, (I think Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen did a better job with certain similar plots) but, for the most part, The Diabolic was fast-paced and engaging.
As a Young Adult novel, certain aspects are likely more predictable and there are common YA tropes, but I think adults who are fans of fast-paced, intriguing, and occasionally thought provoking sci-fi will enjoy Kincaid’s novel.
Originally, this was to be a stand-alone novel. but rumors abound that author is going to continue the story. The Diabolic ended in a way that concluded the story being told and while I will probably read a sequel, I hope it doesn’t ruin a well-done story.
If you’d like to see my reading stats for this novel, check out Reading Stats: The Diabolic