A Texan teenager develops an unusual ability when she becomes an exchange student in India. Once human trafficking touches her world, her mysterious talent shows hope for locating her friends. If she only knew what the talent was and how to use it. A stranger makes her an unexpected offer. He will train her to find her missing friends, but she will need to have trust in ideas she barely believes and more courage than has ever been expected of her. Also, she’ll never be normal again. She accepts his offer, intending to show those guilty of unspeakable crimes just how powerful a young woman can be.
Title: Layers of light | Author: S.R. Cronin | Publisher: Cinnabar Press | Pub. Date: 16th April 2019 | Pages: 331| ISBN13: 9781941283363 | Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 3 out of 5 | Source: Author for review consideration
Layers of Light Review
Novels have long held the role of, apart from entertaining us, surfacing the plight of the faceless and voiceless millions hidden from polite society. “Two years before the mast” by Richard Henry Dana Jr. and “House of dolls” by Ka-tzetnik 135633 describes the horrific experiences of sailors and Jewish women in concentration camps. As Steven Pinker explains, novels connect people around the world, they lead to a more empathetic and peaceful world. “Layers of light” has a job to do here.
There are more slaves in the world today than there have been at any point in history, including the Roman Empire. Modern slaves include debt labourers, exploited immigrants, and most appallingly, sex slaves who are the focus of S.R Cronin’s novel.
“Layers of light” is about international people trafficking for forced sex work. This is a story of the vile men, the women who collaborate, and the helpless families. But most centrally, this is a tale of the victims, some who are lucky to escape, others not so. Some surrender themselves to drugged complicity while others wait for the moment to escape. More than slavery, this is a story of exploitation in general. Not all the victims are slaves. One of the characters is a free American citizen, forced to model undergarments to realise her ambition as a mountaineer. “Layers of light” shows how men, fathers, uncles, Russian oligarchs, Indian criminals, privileged students, and vacationing oil workers, exploit women.
It is not all grim. There is also the story of friends and family who refuse to give up on rescuing their lost children, the monks, nuns, and social workers who assist them. Of the science fiction element, central to the plot is the supernatural ability of some of these well-meaning characters to project themselves mentally, or astral-travel. A skill they deploy in stopping the despicable criminals and locating friends. Here science meets fantasy as ancient mystic practices and rendered into testable, repeatable, and weaponizable phenomena.
There are elements of stoic philosophy. Some of the captured victims take ownership of those aspects they can control in a captive environment, thus preserving their inner selves. In a desperate situation, in a world absent good people with special abilities, perhaps this approach is all that can be offered. “Layers of light” certainly carries a weight of responsibility. It is under this gravity that the narrative buckles slightly. Perhaps only in my perception, and certainly not by the author’s intention, the casual writing style and the light tone trivialise these serious issues. There is frequent use of that “P”-word, and an excerpt that rivals Cheech Marin’s sales pitch in “From dusk ‘til dawn”. The narrative doesn’t fit the crime. The descriptions of India fail to convey the dismal poverty and squalor, dwelling instead on exclusive schools, malls and food courts. The less said about the book’s cover, the better.
Despite some shortcomings, “Layers of light” succeeds in raising awareness, fostering outrage, and keeping the reader hooked. The rescue plot is exciting, the out-of-body experiences vivid and memorable. As a reader, I cared about the main characters’ fates. The so-called “world’s oldest profession” is not victimless and no ethical passes. There are exploiters and the exploited. “Layers of light” successfully makes this clear and asks which are you.
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