FERTS by Grace Hudson

Before I started writing this, I took a quick look at the reaction on Goodreads and was a bit surprised at just how positively FERTS had been received. For me, the novel just doesn’t work.

The war is over. Resources are scarce. The population is dwindling in the Forkstream Territories.

Pinnacle Officer Wilcox has created FERTS amidst the chaos, a facility designed to protect the female population from raiding hordes.

Beth 259201, a newly-demoted Epsilon Internee, suspects that there is something more that lurks beneath the carefully constructed order of the facility.

She has a gift, one that could brand her a defective. A novice fighter, she must use her intellect to survive. Her own life, and the lives of many more may be at risk. Will she succumb to the plans in store for her or will she conceal her secret long enough to discover her own path?

FERTS is a post-apocalyptic dystopian thriller.

I have the impression that Grace Hudson was trying to write a more overtly post-apocalyptic take on The Handmaids Tale, but FERTS doesn’t come anywhere close to achieving this. A large part of the problem, for me, is that Hudson is too explicit about her world building, to the point that narrative frequently grinds to a halt so that the author can inflict yet another gratuitous infodump on the poor reader.

Not only is this incessant infodumping jarring, but it also has the unfortunate effect of highlighting the extent to which the world, as depicted, doesn’t quite hang together. As a result, I was spending far too much time noticing the inconsistencies and not buying in to any of it.

This isn’t helped by the extent to which the plot jumps from character to character. For much of the story, there is no real sense of where things are going, or which characters are going to prove to be important. The result is that it becomes increasingly difficult to connect with, or care about, with any of the characters which badly reduces the impact the book is trying to achieve.

And when the plot finally does start to kick in, we have a wholly unjustified superpower that very nearly led me to abandon the book there and then.

Ultimately, FERTS tries to be too many things and juggle too many threads and ends up falling flat in the process.