X-Novo by Ken Hagdal is a novel of a future American society and system celebrating its first year in power. Women took control of the country quickly through a variety of means and now control the men. Women learned through the Dead Sea Scrolls that the Bible has been tampered with, by men, and that it is women who should hold power. Hagdal uses an interesting turn on Jewish mythology and religion to frame his story. At the one year anniversary of the revolution, the faction in control celebrates, but not all women and certainly not all men approve of the situation.
In this new society men have become the Stepford Wives of the future. A collar around their neck and controls sent from their wives and, for a lack of a better word, overseers keep the male population subdued. The main character is the Director of Information, Lisa Fenrich, whose job is to keep the appearance that all things are running smoothly by issuing news stories and writing speeches for the other branches of the government. She seems to be a happy, well-adjusted person who takes her job of keeping the public safe (from information that may cause panic) seriously. She is a very detailed character in the story, and one that you continue to learn more about as you read on. Faults or otherwise she becomes a character the reader will care for.
Lisa’s position puts her in the perfect place to know all sides of current events. She is an insider in the government and sought after by the opposition BBs or Better Before Party. As an insider Lisa sees first hand the newest government project. She is also contacted by one of the BBs who talks like a cross between Jersey and Valley Girl, “like, you know?”. Government and societal problems are not Lisa’s only problems. She has some personal problems too. Overworked and single, she decides to choose a man from “the pool” to be her collared spouse. There is plenty going on, and Lisa is beginning to feel that not everything is right.
I really like the characters and the running story throughout the novel. However, at times I felt like I was in the second book of a series without having read the first book. The details of the revolution are given in the book to some extent, but a prologue or a prequel covering the previous year or more would be a welcome addition. If the reader can accept the current setting, the story reads well and moves at a good pace. Information is revealed at an acceptable rate to keep the reader appraised of the character’s past and connection to the current events. There is satire and even the key to the deepest secret is even more unexpected.
The author’s intent is to play on gender issues and that is clearly on the surface of the novel. Perhaps, it is my background in political science that has me looking below the surface. I saw the novelization of real world events. The oppressed rise and overthrow the oppressors. The masses fighting for freedom, gain control, oppress the former oppressors, and some of their own less loyal members, and it results in a scenario where it is difficult to tell the good guys from the bad. Hagdal does this with interesting characters, an appealing story, and with perhaps the oldest oppression known to mankind. Aside from my single quibble, the novel comes together and works very well.