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Reviewed by A. L. Peevey for Readers' Favorite
In her novella Kept, Theresa Jacobs offers readers a tale of desperate humans fleeing a dying Earth on enormous spaceships. The story opens seven years after one of the ships, Gaia, has crashed-landed on Kepler, an unexplored planet. The survivors are kept alive by a daily pill administered by the alien “slugs”, the native fauna of Kepler. The slugs observe the humans through the transparent ceiling of the always lit tunnels where the earthlings are now “kept.” All other bodily functions, including sexual desire, have ceased. Nevertheless, fear, anger, boredom, despair, and longing for their former lives continue to be felt by the survivors. The humans are put to sleep whenever they exhibit dangerous behavior such as self-harm or fighting. The narration is mostly told through the dreams and interactions of Finnegan Brennen, called Finn by his fellow survivors. He cannot forget his life of hunting and roaming the mountains of Earth, nor stop trying to rekindle his relationship with Helen, his now emotionally distant and despondent lover. He finds joy in rambling around the tunnels with the only child born on Kepler, Montana, who is a boisterous, inquisitive seven-year-old girl. Then, Monty is befriended by Dartania, a sixteen-year-old girl, who has artefacts from the crashed spaceship and who may know a way out of the tunnels and thus to freedom.
Jacobs' Kept offers us a Twilight Zone-like story minus the bizarre. Along with showing us, believably, the tedium of life shorn of everything that makes it worth experiencing, Jacobs does an admirable job of bringing to life the foibles of a range of all-too-human characters such as Brenda, who wants Finn for her own; George, the biological father of Monty and nothing more; Alma, a psychologist with a motherly instinct; and Carl Mayweather, a pastor continuing his work of spreading the good news and hope to his captive flock. I deem Jacobs’ “Keplerworms” as more believable than the humanoid-types often found inhabiting popular sci-fi series, and I found Dartania, a teenager born with a psychological disorder, and the one who crosses the communication barrier between the aliens and the humans, one of the most intriguing characters of the story.