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The Visionary: A Dystopian Sci-Fi (Tion) by [J.C. Gemmell]
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The Visionary: A Dystopian Sci-Fi (Tion) Kindle Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 23 ratings

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Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08YFCKZ4S
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ J.C. Gemmell (8 March 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 1357 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 106 pages
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.1 out of 5 stars 23 ratings

About the author

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J.C. Gemmell was born in Falkirk, Scotland, and received his B.A. in Computer Studies and a Master’s Degree in Applied Science from the University of Portsmouth, UK. Before turning to science fiction, he worked as a software engineer for a number of multinational organisations. He lives with his partner on the south coast of England. 

Tionsphere and The Uprisers are the first novels in the Tion series, and will be followed by Demiurge in 2022. His series is accompanied by The Visionary, which is available free on Kindle.

Visit J.C. online at and @JcGemmell

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Robert Edward Baker
3.0 out of 5 stars A Little Unfocused
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 4 May 2021
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3.0 out of 5 stars A Little Unfocused
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 4 May 2021
The Visionary is a complex post-apocalyptic dystopian adventure that reminded me very much of Son of Heaven from the bestselling Chung Kuo series from the nineties but with some later elements feeling more like Black Mirror.

The Opening

The first chapter is full of action and offers a great hook. However, the first few pages are written in a very telling fashion, being general and not specific in the moment. It didn’t ground me or make me feel like I was there.

The biggest problem I had with the opening was that it felt ambiguous. I wasn’t clear on whether Erebus was an actual dragon or simply a fanciful way of describing the actual volcano in Antarctica most famous for the plane crash in the seventies.

At first, I read the opening as if Erebus was an actual dragon, some kind of homage to popular Japanese tales of monsters climbing from the depths of the Pacific Ocean to destroy civilization. As the novel developed, I began to understand it was simply an over emphasis on the metaphor.

Thankfully, the narrative becomes more shown as the story develops. Sadly, it didn’t really immerse me because of the fast-forward nature of the prose.

The Characters

Xin-yi is the main protagonist from Guangzhou. On a personal note, this made me chuckle because I have a niece from Guangzhou called Xin-mei. Different xin, mind. The problem with Chinese is that it’s full of homophones. The xin in the story refers to “heart” while Xin-mei’s xin means “new” as in “New China”, a common poetic reference in Mandarin and a family in-joke since her father is called Great Wall and there’s a famous poem about a rose symbolizing China at the Great Wall.

Anyway, that’s all irrelevant to this story except to note that I’ve been to the places described in the story and know them well. I’m also aware that Xin-yi’s surname Shi means stone in Mandarin, which has interesting connections with the protagonist’s personality.

Xin-yi is a sympathetic character from the outset because of the events that overtake her as modern society collapses. However, I didn’t feel she was a proactive protagonist. All the way through this novel, she mainly reacts to events as they happen rather than being proactive. Despite the fact that she is “the visionary”, most of the major plot development happens without her, and it feels like she’s just on the sidelines, watching.

Instead of being responsible for getting things started and setting her own agenda, other characters manipulate Xin-yi and put her into positions where she creates what she creates.

Grimur Rafnkelsson is a much more interesting character. He actually is proactive, and you get the feeling he is much more in the know than Xin-yi, much closer to the center of events, and more of an active participant in the important changes in society. As the story continued, I wondered why he wasn’t the viewpoint narrator. The story would be far clearer and more interesting seen through his eyes.

Michelle Takahashi is singularly the most interesting character in the story. Sadly, we see very little of her despite the fact that she’s actually the most proactive character and almost everything that happens is because of her and her dreams/vision. She is the true visionary, but we don’t get to see her achieving her vision.

The Plot

The main plot conflict relates to the changing environment. This story is all about how Xin-yi and her colleagues fight against nature to create a new world.

As the story continued, I soon made connections with the Son of Heaven from the bestselling Chung Kuo series I first read in the nineties. The vision that Xin-yi initially has is quite similar to the setting of the older book. However, her final vision is more in line with some episodes of Black Mirror and technology seen in many popular sci-fi stories today, such as Old Man’s War and Upload.

While this story is interesting in some ways, it didn’t really feel like there was a plot. What I mean is that typically you have a protagonist and that protagonist has a goal, something she really wants. The conflict of the story then is whatever prevents her from achieving that goal.

Xin-yi never feels like she has any goals. That’s part of her lack of proactivity. Her only real goal is to find her brother, and that never feels like a serious endeavor. She soon forgets about him when reconnected with civilization. Instead of having goals, other people push goals onto her, especially Michelle Takahashi.

So, while I really enjoyed reading this story, it never felt like it was going anywhere. Xin-yi is simply reacting to events as other people push her into new jobs, going where they say and doing what they ask her to do. I couldn’t grasp what the story was really about, where it was headed. It just felt like a prequel to the Chung Kuo world.

The resolution didn’t satisfy me. The main part of the ending relates to the fate of Grimur and Xin-yi’s brother, but I can’t say more without introducing spoilers.

The Setting

As I’ve already mentioned, much of the setting felt similar to that found in the Chung Kuo series and in Dark Mirror.

Unlike in Chung Kuo, the structures created didn’t feel plausible. In the way they were described, plate tectonics and continued volcanic activity are completely ignored, though I’m sure there was some mechanism for dealing with them over the long term that was left out to keep the narrative easy to follow.

The marks were an interesting novelty. However, they were introduced in a confusing way. Because Xin-yi didn’t know what they were, neither did this reader. Later, their role becomes clearer. But Xin-yi must have understood what they were pretty soon, so I’m unclear why the reader had to be kept in the dark for so long.
The Prose

The prose is clear and easy to follow. However, it often becomes telling and didn’t really engage me.

My Opinion

There are a lot of positive elements to this novel. It has an intriguing setting and some originality in the marks used in the story. The changes happening to the world and to society are also interesting, and I enjoyed reading about them.

However, I frequently got the feeling that I’ve read it before. This is mainly because I read the Chung Kuo books many years ago, but also because of the viewpoint character.

If we had been in Michelle’s head or Grimur’s, we would have been in the middle of the action and seen where things were going. Instead, I just felt like I was somewhere on the sidelines throughout the story.

I’m going to rate it as 5 out of 10, which will translate to 3 out of 5 on Goodreads and Amazon. There are some good elements to the story, but it was too ambiguous and not focused enough for my tastes.
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Anita Dow, The Martian Diaries sequel to The War Of The Worlds
4.0 out of 5 stars A dystopian story with a hint of hope 4.5 stars.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 26 October 2021
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 30 September 2021
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Al Sturgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars Great reading
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 18 April 2021
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Kindle Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Concept
Reviewed in Canada on 5 October 2021
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