This is a short sci-fi romance novella that was perhaps a little too short. It had a vastly intriguing premise that deserved a lot more exploration than the brevity this book allowed.
Be warned: Spoilers may make an appearance below…
The basic premise of Strays is that Kyle, the young man on the left in the cover pic, is working at some university or something, and stumbles upon a picture he shouldn’t see. Immediately, the government is out to arrest, interrogate, and very likely execute him. Through a freak car accident, Kyle escapes and is eventually taken in by Daniel, the man on the right in the picture, who is an operative of the counter-government militia.
The background, and this is where the spoiler warning may take effect, is that humanity has become unable to reproduce and Kyle is one of the last-born humans in the entire world. This, in itself, is similar to the premise of the book and movie, Children of Men. And, while Children of Men the movie took a completely different take on the premise, so too does Strays. Children of Men, the book, was largely about the psychological depression that humanity faces in the face of our impending extinction. Children of Men, the movie, depicted societal upheaval and chaos as that extinction nears. While Strays takes a somewhat similar approach as the Children of Men movie, Strays adds the fascinating twist of the picture Kyle saw.
Just what sort of picture would be worth hunting down and killing one of the youngest members of the human race? Hmm… while I’d LOVE to discuss that picture and what it means, I think I really shouldn’t spoil it. It almost hurts my brain not to explore it here. Anyway, moving on.
There are also other snippets that raise questions — there was some sort of plague… is this the cause of sterility? Also, it appears the plague may be artificial in nature, possibly created by government forces. Why would they do such a thing?
None of these questions — about the plague or about the meaning of the picture that Kyle sees — are answered.
Noble takes this sci-fi premise and morphs it into a love story between Kyle and Daniel. Some of the reviews on GoodReads claim this love story is predictable. But, let’s be serious here, a lot of love stories are somewhat predictable. I write the stuff and I know it’s predictable. It’s rare that a romance book catches me by surprise. So I don’t hold this against it at all. It was actually quite an enjoyable development of their relationship.
If anything, this book could have been two or three times as long. I would have loved to learn more about the history of this world that Noble has created and what the implications are of that picture Kyle saw. And are the plague and the sterility related? There is lots of potential for conspiracy and absolutely fascinating development that Noble just scratches the surface of. As well, integrating the present love story into a much longer sci-fi plot would create a more unified whole and it would feel like less of a shift.
It was an enjoyable read with lots of fascinating potential.