Zodiac by Sam Wilson is a startling new thriller with one of the most original concepts in years, where the line between a life of luxury and an existence of poverty can be determined by the stroke of midnight.
Here's an offbeat dystopian premise: a society divided and governed by Zodiac signs, where all walks of life—from the top-tier elites right down to the bottom-rung proletariats—are viewed through the prism of the astrological sign under which they are born that binds them to their particular lot in life.
Our story opens in the city of San Celeste with Rachel, one of the working class who is employed by JiffyMaids. She arrives at the house where she is scheduled to clean and stops cold in her tracks when she notices the door has been forced open. She dials 911, and the dispatcher—who Rachel is glad to hear is a Libra—instructs her to stay put.
But curiosity gets the best of her when she hears a noise coming from behind the house. She follows the sound to a trench where she discovers a man dying, having been sliced open across his abdomen. Frantic that the perpetrator of the crime is still at the scene, she makes a run for it. It’s not long before someone is closing in on her heels. Mistakenly, she seeks help from a passing car only to find herself trapped with her pursuer's accomplice.
She held her arms forward with her wrists together. The man grabbed them firmly with one hand. He dropped the gun in his lap and bound her hands with the tape.
The sirens outside the car grew louder, and the tone dropped as an ambulance passed by. Rachel looked after it, but it showed no sign of slowing down. They hadn't seen her. The 911 operator was probably still on the line, on her dropped phone. No one was coming for her.
Rachel was on her own.
What Rachel hadn't known in the grisly discovery was that she had witnessed the final moments of Chief of Police Peter Williams. Detective Jerome Burton and the other investigating cops are well aware that the death of their fallen comrade means they have a brutal killer on their hands—one who’s not likely to stop with just a single slaying given the prominent calling card of a crudely drawn Taurus sign found on the grass.
Suspicion falls on a radical militant group with the name Aries Rising, known to have a major gripe against the cops. The predominant law enforcement sign is Taurus, and it appears that arrests overwhelmingly target “lower” signs like Aries and Pisces.
To Burton's mild annoyance, his deputy chief partners him with astrologer Lindiwe Childs. In this topsy-turvy world, astrologers help to solidify cases by making them watertight for partisan members of the jury. In short order, Burton and Childs are working together fine in their search for the truth, and then another morbid discovery:
The heat of the flames had partially melted the asphalt, and Hammond's charred bones were glued in place by the time he had arrived on the scene. There were tyre tracks on the verge that matches the skid-marks left outside Chief William's house. It was the same car that most probably taken Rachel Wells. And next to the body was a large Leo sign, marked out in scorched asphalt.
The finest dystopian novels—1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, A Clockwork Orange, and my personal favorite, Vladimir Nabokov’s Bend Sinister—make a connection with their dark fiction grounded in the reality of our present age. A society divided by preconception and controlled by selfish interests is certainly aligned with current times. Zodiac has an important message to impart, and Wilson tells it in an entertaining manner.
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David Cranmer is the publisher and editor of BEAT to a PULP. Latest books from this indie powerhouse include the alternate history novella Leviathan and sci-fi adventure Pale Mars. David lives in New York with his wife and daughter.