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Reviewed by Lex Allen for Readers' Favorite
The great accomplishment of indie authorship and self-publishing is that books like Hedon by Jason Werbeloff will not only be written, but they also provide for a reading experience beyond the limits imposed by traditional publishers. Mr. Werbeloff has written a sci-fi fantasy that is brave in its interpretation of homosexuality and imaginatively rich with the worlds of Shangri and the Ghetto. This is a story of a dystopian society that’s as politically depraved as anyone could ever desire. This is a story of two separate communities living side by side, but not equal in rights or privileges. The people in Shangri are well to do with happiness as their currency, measured by meters implanted in the backs of their heads. Happiness is mandatory, but an imbalance in the amount of pleasure received versus altruistic joy given will bring out The Tax Man; an altogether bad experience for the guilty party. Alternatively, the Ghetto inhabitants have been left behind. They still use money for trade, live in shanty shacks, embrace heterosexuality and are subservient to the rulers of Shangri. The residents of the Ghetto also suffer a form of population control through the annual Culling. A ritual that is as brutal and despicable as any you’ll ever read.
The primary characters, Cyan, Gemini, Anand and The Tax Man 16, are exceptionally well developed. Each of these actors will remind the reader of someone they know…someone they either love, sympathize or empathize with or even someone they hate. There are several notable supporting roles that appear throughout the tale, and each is equally well established and defined. In Hedon, Mr. Werbeloff has excelled in ‘showing not telling’ an array of problematic concepts with a minimum of didactic narrative. I was thoroughly impressed with the degree of verisimilitude maintained through every facet of the story. This is storytelling at its best…characterization, dialog, descriptive narrative, pace, plot and subplot interaction and conclusion…simply all the pieces fit — perfectly.