The Fortune Follies

Fiction - Science Fiction
324 Pages
Reviewed on 10/13/2019
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

After growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Catori Sarmiento’s travels while being a military spouse have often inspired her unique writing style. Although she began writing at an early age, it was not until she began writing poetry during her time as a University of Maryland student that she decided to seriously pursue professional writing. She went on to study writing in a graduate program at National University of San Diego while also living in Tokyo, Japan. Upon graduation, she began writing what would become a first place Cygnus Award winning novel, The Fortune Follies. A year later, her next novel, Carnival Panic was published and went on to be on the short list for the International Drunken Druid Award, a Silver Award winner of the Literary Titan Book Award, and a Silver Award winner of the Kops-Fetherling International Book Award.

She now finds herself living and working in Minot, North Dakota, and hopes that readers will find intrigue and entertainment in her stories!

    Book Review

Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite

The Fortune Follies by Catori Sarmiento is a dystopian-toned science fiction-infused drama that takes place in an alternate history. The year is 1949. The setting is post-World War II Seattle, a technologically unique, socially unbalanced city laced with violent crime gangs and monopolized by a company whose automatons, among other wonders, are produced by the slave-like labor of non-citizen residents. The drama erupts in the lives of two cousins of Japanese and mixed-race ancestry who have very different goals in life. To sixteen-year-old Penny, nothing but her singing career matters, but at what cost? Eighteen-year-old Sarah is grievously resentful of Penny’s prosperity and flees the drudgery and poverty of Alaska to seek monetary reparations from Penny and a new life of leisure for herself, only to realize very quickly that she jumped from the proverbial frying pan into a horrendous house fire.

In The Fortune Follies, Sarmiento presents a complex drama that engages the reader on many levels. The narrative is descriptive, providing detailed insight into the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes experienced by the protagonists as they move through the plot. The story proceeds at a reasonable pace as it unfolds to reveal layers of emotional, psychological, and cultural dimensions. The chapters alternate in points of view between Sarah and Penny, who interact in some and act separately in others. Flashbacks to their younger years explore the tangle of emotions that connects them. Japanese-inspired folktales add to the cultural flavor of the novel. And, the alternate history angle provides a springboard for the science fiction aspect. A mesmerizing and, at times, gut-wrenching read.

K.C. Finn

The Fortune Follies is a work of science fiction penned by author Catori Sarmiento. In this superb reimagining of alternative history, we follow a pair of cousins through their daily lives at a difficult time of adjustment. The novel poses the question: what if the United States had lost their side in World War Two, and Japan had succeeded, and then goes on to reveal an exciting new redevelopment of futuristic technology in the city of Seattle. In this reimagined America, Sarah Igarashi tries to make her way as an outsider, whilst her cousin Penelope sings for her supper in Seattle’s clubs and dreams of something bigger.

Author Catori Sarmiento has created a fascinating cross-cultural read that explores some really fascinating concepts, whilst also delivering an excellent and intrinsically human science fiction plot. I liked the character development and split perspective between Sarah and Penelope very much, showing us two diverse women who view and navigate the world in different ways. For all their flaws, there’s plenty of strength and empathy to be taken from them both, and as their plot-lines intertwine, the overall story begins to take shape. It’s a slow-burning narrative of discovery and intense but lavish description, one which allows readers to enjoy the concept of the new world and its riches before the story really gets going. But what results is a very satisfying plot and conclusion, making The Fortune Follies a fascinating read, recommended for fans who want plenty of substance in their world-building.

Grant Leishman

The Fortune Follies by Catori Sarmiento takes us back in time to a very different version of life after the Second World War. The author has created a totally different backstory to the defeat of the Japanese. Instead of dropping two nuclear bombs on Japan, the Japanese army was defeated by a mechanical army of soldiers created essentially by one man, Robert Sinclair and his company Sinclair Industries. Sarah Igarashi, of Japanese extraction, and her entire family were interred during the war as a precaution but now she has decided to leave her poverty-stricken native Alaska and head to Seattle, where her cousin Penny, she assumes, is living a life of luxury on an inheritance that Sarah believes her family is entitled to share. When she arrives in Seattle, she quickly realizes the streets are not paved with gold and her cousin has no intention of sharing the inheritance with her. As a non-citizen of Seattle, Sarah has few rights and is forced to work long, hard hours at Sinclair Industries, for minimal wages, just to survive. Against a background of gangs, the Japanese underworld and a massive earthquake that strikes Seattle, Sarah must somehow find her place and her way in this alien environment.

I felt the premise for The Fortune Follies was unique and interesting. The idea that America post-war would become a repressive, almost fascist society was interesting. The struggles of the non-citizens in Seattle, as opposed to those who had citizenship, resonated with me as being not too different from the problems faced by undocumented immigrants in the US of the twenty-first century. Author Catori Sarmiento takes us inside a dark, Japanese underworld and a city ruled by gang violence and the ever-present, overarching specter of Sinclair Industries. The writing style was at times beautifully descriptive. The POV changes constantly between Sarah and her cousin Penny, which was fine and gave variety to the story. The two principal characters were well-drawn as almost opposites, despite them being cousins. I particularly enjoyed the tension and interactions between Sarah, Penny and George (family) in contrast to the warmth and friendship between Sarah, Ruth and some of the other rebels (comrades). All in all, an interesting idea and one worth delving into.