The world is broken. But, how can you express that the world is broken, or even know about it, if you don’t have the right words. How can you explain the wrongness that the entire structure of society makes you feel? What if the word for freedom didn’t exist in your vocabulary? Or if it had a different definition that what you know?
Meet Inspector Maddox Dawes of Kyper Central. He has worked dutifully for the Republic his entire life, from Placement to near Decomissioning. Dawes is gruff, ageing and almost done with working. That is, until a bash-and-dash is assigned to him as his last case. There, Dawes finds an empty speeder, the crew all dosed with Dreamscape and three words written in red: Nehrun tai hanen.
Nothing in the Republic could have prepared Dawes for what comes next. The computers are hijacked with the same message and Dawes’ investigation grows exponentially. Only, none of the Interfaces or computers can hold onto any data regarding this case. So, Dawes must investigate the old-fashioned way. And the only person in the Republic that can help him is Amaia Wainright.
Amaia is a linguist. She was Placed as a subject expert and built the field of linguistics from the ground up. She teaches Dawes about a long lost language and its people, speaking of freedom, choice and the pursuit of knowledge. Dawes and Amaia become embroiled in conspiracies involving the ruling Konsulars, the drug Dreamscape, even the citizens of the Republic. And, worst of all, the message is the calling card of dissidents, rebels.
Dawes, working in his capacity as Inspector and as student of Amaia, must learn what these rebels want and how to stop them. He matches wits with the leader of the rebels, whom he names Ske’toa in the ancient language. Malevolent spirit. And he loses. But Dawes has been working for the Republic his entire life and he is not about to let a rebel make him question everything. The Republic provides everything: shelter, food, clothing, support, community. Everything is ordered and makes sense. All the Republic asks in return is unquestioning loyalty and fulfilment of duty.
Then, Dawes learns things about the Republic that shake his belief to the core. Dawes falls back on the only thing he can. He pursues Ske’toa.
Dawes learns new words from Amaia and the rebels. His world has opened into new horizons, defined by words he never before had. Once you learn those words, however, it is difficult to unlearn them. And, as Dawes learns, nothing is ever the same again.
This is a science-fiction thriller novel about how people use language and how language changes the way you think. This is a struggle between opposing ideas about how society should be structured. What happens when you pit collectivism against individualism? What happens when you teach a people the words for expressing just how broken the world is? Are you prepared to defend what is right? Or do you even know what right is?