Cover Image: Arch-Conspirator

Arch-Conspirator

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A futuristic retelling of Antigone, told through multiple viewpoints.
There was a lot going on here, in addition to being a retelling of an older story, that I think deserved a longer treatment than a novella. There was a whole world, (extracting DNA instead of natural born babies... destroyed planet... )that felt a little unexplained.
Overall, interesting tale, but felt more like the lead in to a bigger story.

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I need to thank Veronica Roth for giving me a "read past your bedtime" experience like I haven't had in years. I closed this book at 2 am, y'all. I had read the whole thing in a single go.

It's a pretty literal retelling of the tale of Antigone, which I hadn't read since sixth grade. Living in the household of the tyrant responsible for her parents' death, engaged to his son, trying to be dutiful and responsible to keep her siblings alive, Antigone's life has no room for error. When her brothers kill each other in a standoff where each is on the opposing side, she defies the strict confines of her culture to do what's right for the 'wrong' brother who is denied proper funeral rites. In the process she creates an ethical dilemma for the tyrant: was what she has done morally right, and if not, will the punishment be a moral solution?

Except here, Roth has taken the story a step further by bringing in something that affects us all: reproductive rights. The right to chose whether or not you want to carry a child, which, here, is an obligation for every woman. Women are seen as walking wombs, vessels for the future of a dying planet and race. Roth creates a culture that has basically turned DNA into a religion, where natural born children are seen as not having a soul, where the only way for humanity to survive is to continue mixing and matching the past so as to take not a single risk on the present.

And it's haunting.

If anything, I would have wished Roth went deeper, and make the Antigone story more her own. But the creativity along with the obvious anger that suffuses the novel made this book impossible to put down.

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I had never read the original story that Arch-Conspirator is adapted from, so I entered into reading this story with a fresh perspective and no expectations. Veronica Roth once again delivers an intriguing dystopian story. Antigone is a young woman living in a world where humans are afraid of population decline and so found a way to preserve a person’s soul through extracting their ichor and saving it in an archive. This allows future families to use their ichor for reproduction. The focus on population also means that fertile women are highly precious, keeping our main character, Antigone, and most women, from being able to live life the way they would like. The conflict in this story is rooted around that problem and also political and family turmoil. The ending twist left a lot to the imagination, but I think it was appropriate. Rory’s writing is beautiful, yet I was not able to get immersed in this world and kept having to remind myself that they live in an advanced society with advanced technology. My brain kept wanting to think of this world aa rugged and less developed. Since the world building didn’t completely connect with me and immerse me, I give this 4 out of 5. However, Arch-Conspirator is a great quick read fantasy dystopian for all interested in the genre. I highly recommend this story and hope it becomes another beloved story by Roth.

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My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher Tor Publishing Group for an advance copy of this science fiction novel that draws on a classic tale to tell of a future dying Earth and a young woman with ideas of revenge.

Classic stories are ones that people remember because of the timeless nature of both the story and the characters involved. Tales that continue to speak to readers and listeners from over the years, decades, centuries, even millennia. A story that was told by firelight, to lantern light, to LED to well the way humans are going back to firelight once more. The story of Antigone is one of a young woman's defiance to unjust rules, the power of family, and even the subjugation of her gender, along with a proud ruler so sure of being right, so sure that his maleness being always in the right, sees those around him destroyed by his weakness to declare that he was wrong. A story that can be told again and again in numerous ways, even a science fiction setting. Veronica Roth in the book Arch-Conspirator, takes the story of Antigone to a dystopian dying Earth, and tells of a young woman facing an unknow future with her family and legacy in the balance.

The book opens with the death of Antigone's parents, Jocasta and Oedipus, murdered and leaving the throne open for the taking. Antigone's uncle Kreon, a man with a strong military background and a want for battle, takes power and offers his protection and shelter to Antigone and her remaining family. The city is the last shelter on a dying earth, and there is no where for her to go. Compounding this is the fact that babies being born today, are born without souls and most be provided with them by the Archive the last repository for human DNA. Events are set into place that will cause these two to clash, and many others will fall because of it.

A short novel, probably a novella, that is a pretty straight retelling of the story from Sophocles with some additions and science fictional elements. A lot of authors are doing retelling of myths and older tales, which just goes to show the power and resonance these pieces continue to have. The writing is good, the characters could use a little breathing room, they seem introduced and sent off, without a feeling of why they are doing things. The idea of the Archieve is interesting, almost a Babylon 5 kind of idea with human souls being shared. My biggest problem is really the length. I'm not sure why this is so short, not with all the ideas that are discussed. There is a lot going on, and it would have been nice to have them fleshed out a little. I've noticed that in a few different books that are retelling of classical stories. Nothing has time to grow, or to be of importance to the reader. Still this was a good retelling with good ideas.

Recommended for fans of Veronica Roth, and for people intrigued by classic stories and what can be done to incorporate them into modern or even science fiction or fantastical stories.

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4.5/5 stars. Foremost, I would like to thank Netgalley and Tor Books for an eARC. Arch-Conspirator is an Antigone ancient Greek tragedy reimagining.

It takes place in the last city on Earth, due to radiation. Antigone's parents are murdered, which then Antigone and her siblings are taken in by her uncle who has now taken over the throne. The city has what is called an Archive where all the genes of the dead are stored. Genes are collected after someone passes away with an instrument called an "extractor". The extractor essentially extracts "ichor" or in other words eggs or sperm. People are no longer allowed to have natural born children. Natural born children are said to be soulless and usually die young.

I consumed this novella within just a few hours. Very fast paced and will keep your attention throughout. I wasn't familiar with the original Antigone playwright, but it didn't keep me from enjoying the story. The characters were enjoyable, especially Antigone. The multiple POVS is always a plus for me. I wish there was more elaboration on certain things, more twists, and more of an explanation of the ending. Most of those just weren't possible with it being a novella. I WANT MORE! Highly recommend if you're interested in a short, fast-paced, dystopian spin on an ancient Greek tragedy.

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I really like the direction Veronica Roth took with this book! It was a retelling of the tale of Antigone. It was super short and told from different perspectives. Would love to see more of these kind of stories from her!

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This is a perfectly fine beat-for-beat rewrite of Sophocles. Students might enjoy recognizing how each element of the original has been adapted to a scifi dystopian setting. That said, it's a pretty uninspiring read.
The setting is a vague mish-mash of dystopian elements mostly borrowed from The Handmaid's Tale and Kathryn Lasky's Star Split: in the only city left on earth, infertility and radiation-induced genome mutations are fought back with a strict policy of in-vitro designer babies; women are reduced to walking wombs, to be kept safely in the house so they can carry the next generation; immortality means getting your genetic material into the Archive so it can be used by future generations; also there's a military dictatorship, an incipient Rebellion, and Chekov's unlaunched spaceship-beacon. All of this seems to be in place principally so that this Antigone can operate in an identical social, (gender-)political, and (for bad interpretations of Sophocles, anyway) religious milieu to the original. Even the "pollution" of the children of Oedipus has its less problematic scifi counterpart: this Oedipus and Jocasta were rebels who had natural children (rather than select and recombine from the Archive), dooming them to (probably) shortened lifespans and the disgust of their fellow-citizens.

None of this is inherently *incapable* of being the basis of an interesting scifi story–if it were actually the basis of a scifi story that was interested in exploring what a world with these realities would actually mean. But here, none of it really matters except as the set-dressing that allows a one-to-one match-up of plot elements with Sophocles. And because the stakes are so flimsily constructed, it's impossible to care: Roth tells us that having children directly from your own genetic material parents is, in this society, as taboo as parent-child incest is in ours, but there's no effort to give this "world-building" fact any weight, to try to make the reader feel the importance of this taboo and what it would mean to be the product of such a union. Even the characters directly affected seem to forget about it most of the time. Similarly, we're presented with belief that immortality of the soul requires one's "ichor" (sperm or ova) to be harvested and stored in the Archive–this is what Kreon forbids for the dead Polyneikes, and what Antigone defies him to do–but there's nothing in the story that makes this quasi-religious obligation seem as alive and urgent as Sophocles' Antigone's conviction that her duty is to the dead. Partly this is because so much of the novella – from all the character viewpoints – has to be taken up explaining the backstory and the details of the scifi trappings, not to mention The Rebellion, that the whole Polynices issue sort of gets buried under description of Extractors and Sectors and Antigone's reminisces of her mother's oppression as a woman scientist. Also, I suspect, Roth (like so many of us!) is a bit uncomfortable with Antigone's single-minded obsession with her brother (and only her brother). One would like one's heroine of resistance to authority to have a broader, more humanistic compass...

...as lots of Antigone and Antigone-descendant characters do! Including just about every protagonist of a YA dystopia. What's Katniss Everdeen but a latter-day Antigone? This novella is like a production of Sophocles but done up in Hunger Games costume to "appeal to the youths": it's fine–although it could be cleverer– but ultimately the only thing you can do is point to the correspondences and say "oh hey, that's what she did to dystopia-up that". In conclusion: just go read Antigone. Or read your favorite classic YA dystopia.

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I don't know the original story of Antigone at all, aside from a cursory glance at a general synopsis, so I have no opinion on this as a reimagining. But I quite enjoyed the story overall.

The beginning was slightly jarring for me, being thrown into this world without much explanation of anything, and it took me a bit to really feel grounded in the story and like I actually understood what was going on. And throughout the writing was very atmospheric, which is a writing style that a lot of people really enjoy, but isn't exactly my cup of tea always. I didn't hate it by any means, it just impacts me differently than people who really love that.

The themes & concepts explored of bodily autonomy, freedom, tyranny, humanity's survival, and many more were done well in my opinion, though.

And I ended up enjoying the story and the tragedy of it all.

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I could not get behind the premise of this story. I like Veronica Roth, but this book was not for me. I am not a fan of rewriting tragedies which depict women of little to no power, even to give them some agency. I can’t help but feel new stories would give them even more, why not start there.

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This is a dystopian retelling of Antigone. The world is a radioactive wasteland, and Antigone lives in the last city on earth under the thumb of her tyrannical uncle. When tragedy strikes early on in the story, she risks everything to carry out her brother’s last wishes.

There are many plot differences between this story and the original, but that’s to be expected in a retelling. Ultimately, both have very tragic endings. I thought the characters were well developed and the world she built was intriguing. I believe she incorporated social commentary that relates to our current world. It was a quick and easy read. I could have read a few hundred pages more. Ultimately, I enjoyed the story.

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It's sort of unfortunate to say, but this story wasn't as memorable as I would have liked. It was a quick read, and it wasn't a bad read. Yet, nothing stuck out to me as fantastic to mention. This story is brutal with little backstory, and while most novellas can get away with this- the book failed to successfully get away with this. With that being said, the plot WAS interesting. I just wish we had been given a bit more with it than we got.

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This is short novella sci-fi retelling of Antigone. It's mostly faithful to the original, and slightly uninspired at that. It has some of the same dystopian hallmarks that Roth is famous for, and so fans of hers should be interested in reading it. I would love to see it in high school curricula alongside Sophocles as the themes work themselves out in disparate ways from the ancient play.

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Thank you Netgalley and Publisher for this Arc!!

I am really conflicted over this book and I just don't know how to feel!

I love it as a retelling of Antigone, especially the ending. I thought Roth made Antigone's character even stronger than in the original by sophocles. Antigone is originally a play by Sophocles. It's short but with a lot of depth to quickly delve into during any lit. class.

There were some huge changes and this is where I have some unanswered questions. They are living in a world that is dying from radiation, but they are in a safe, protected spot and are focusing on continuing our species. But, this all gets strange to me. How are they safe from the radiation? I loved the important details of what women had to do to keep up this world and how it relates to today and what women are facing, but I don't understand the whole extractor and build a baby thing. I like it. I just needed explanations. Just some background. I feel like I started blind and I ended with just enough light in the distance to truthfully admit that I do see something. These are great, brilliant ideas. But, if it was expanded upon, then this book would have been a showstopper instead of just passable.

These are all my own opinions and I urge all fellow readers to read and find out for yourself. Also, definitely take a minute to read a summary of Antigone prior to picking this up.

Out February 21, 2023!

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This is a retelling of Antigone. I read the original many years ago, so I was somewhat familiar with things going into this book. I liked the dystopian attempt of the story, as well as the multiple POVs, but I struggled with the book in general. I wasn't that fond of Antigone, and I'd hoped I'd feel different about this one, but, sadly, that wasn't the case. Making this into a novella may not have been the right choice, as a full-length novel may have felt a bit more developed. I was a bit bored overall.

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Hmmm. Okay. So, I definitely liked this, but I really wish it had been expanded to a full-length novel. I thought it was a very creative retelling of Antigone's story in a kind of futuristic/dystopian setting. Roth knows how to write dystopian, and that was done well, but I really wished I'd had the opportunity to spend more time with these re-imagined characters, Antigone and her siblings, especially. In this version, from what I was able to gather, the sin committed by Jocasta and Oedipus wasn't incest, as in the original play by Sophocles, but was instead having their children naturally rather than using the accepted, gene edited fertilization process. I wish I understood that part better, too. Even if this had been like 75 pages longer I think it would have made a huge difference in my understanding of and immersion in the story. Still, one of the better mythological retellings I've read in recent years!

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This was an interesting novella, but could've probably just been a short story published in a magazine or anthology. It felt like reading something for school. To put it simply, I don't feel any better, worse, or different for having read it.

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I love retellings and reimaginings, but I’ve never read one related to Antigone, so I was super curious to see how it would transition. Set in a post-apocalyptic world that depends on women’s ability to reproduce, this dystopian retelling of Antigone stays true to the original story while offering a fresh and twisted modernization.

I taught Antigone for many years, and it’s fascinating to see how a classic Greek tragedy can transition to a post-apocalyptical, radiation-ravaged world. The teacher’s wheels in my head were spinning while I read, and I constantly thought about all the different lessons I could make if I had taught the book alongside the Greek drama. The novella is cleverly constructed and captivatingly written, and I think Antigone fans will appreciate how Roth twines the classic piece into a new setting.

Roth creates such unique dystopian worlds, and this story is no exception. Antigone and her siblings are vilified because they were created by natural conception rather than the genetically modified way that is expected in this society. Long-term consequences abound because of their origins, especially after their parents are killed during a rebellion. I found all of the siblings so interesting, and I like that the story switches perspectives between them, as well as other minor characters like Antigone’s uncle, aunt, and betrothed. It offers a look at a variety of perspectives, though the story remains more Antigone’s than the others.

I also like that the story highlights the same messages of hubris, religious and ethical beliefs, the abuse of power, having autonomy over one’s body, and family loyalty as Antigone does. They are universal and relatable themes that work equally as well in this setting as they did in ancient Greece. And I love Antigone! She’s strong and smart, and her determination to stand up for what is right regardless of the consequences always captivates me.

There are parts of the story where I wanted more, especially when it came to character development. Antigone is definitely dynamic and layered, but some of the secondary characters felt flat and one-dimensional. Some aspects of the plot and setting felt that way too, as did the ending. It was almost like reading an abridged version of a story, and I wanted more. That being said, there are other parts of the story, like Antigone, her relationship with her sister, and the role of women in society, that are nuanced, layered, and provocative.

Overall, I think Arch-Conspirator is a unique and immersive adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone. It’s a quick, immersive, and thought-provoking read, especially for those who are familiar with the original play. Thanks to NetGalley and Tor Books for providing me with a copy of the novella. All thoughts are my own.

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Arch-Conspirator, by Veronica Roth, is a tautly written reimagining of Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone. While some will probably wish for a bit more world-building detail and deeper development of some themes, fans of the novella form will find a lot to like here.

Set in a post-apocalyptic, far-future refuge where the land outside the story’s locale is uninhabitable, it’s a world whose population rests on a knife’s edge of survival and so has chosen to lessen the chance of extinction by mandating births (“It didn’t matter if a person wanted a child or not … If they were viable … they were required to carry a child, even though only half of them would survive it”) via a strictly controlled method that is a mix of surrogacy, genetics — they use the DNA of the dead —, and religion. Antigone, her sister Ismene, and brothers Eteocles and Polyneikes are considered soulless and blasphemous as their parents Oedipus and Jocasta had chosen a natural conception. When Oedipus, the former leader of the enclave, was overthrown and both their parents killed, the children were taken in by the authoritarian Kreon, the current leader. Soon into the story, Polyneikes and Eteocles are killed, the former attempting to overthrow Kreon, the latter defending him. As in the original Greek tragedy, Kreon forbids the proper treatment of Polyneikes’ body, which in the religious views of the city means Polyneikes’ will never be reborn, and his edict is defied by Antigone, her rebellion entangling both her sister and Kreon’s own son Haemon.

The plot is tightly constructed, tense, and propulsive, making Arch-Conspirator a compellingly fast read for reasons well beyond its brevity, with the plot elements that mirror the Greek play updated in smart, original fashion, feeling wholly natural to the science fiction setting.

The thematic underpinning, meanwhile, is densely layered, raising issues of personal agency (particular with women), bodily autonomy, family obligation, use (and abuse) of power, religion, the balance between the rights of the individual and the needs of the state, and more. Here, more than with regard to plot, is where I personally would have liked to see more development, where the form’s length works somewhat at odds with the narrative. One feels at times some subjects are merely glanced over or tossed into the mix but not fully fleshed out. To a lesser extent I could have done with a bit more depth regarding a few of the characters. But honestly that’s almost certainly more an issue of personal preference than any writerly misstep. I often find myself wishing for more when reading a novella as I lean toward wanting a deep immersion in character and theme (often more than plot). So asking for more of that here is sort of like complaining that a sonnet didn’t go 20 or 30 lines.

As a novella, therefore, Roth pretty much nails it, grabbing the reader and pulling them forcefully through a tensely fraught plot involving characters one cares about and posing serious questions about how we should live. A good read on its own, and if I were still teaching high school, I’d almost certainly use it in the classroom alongside the original story

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I think this was ultimately just OK of a book. I still haven't really forgiven Roth for the extreme let down of the Divergent Ending

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This is a very short book telling the story of Antigone and her doomed siblings. In a post apocalyptic world women are treated as vessels for new life with each citizen’s essence being stored in an archive ready for reuse. Antigone and her siblings are different though, born naturally from their parents union and thus seen as soulless. When revolution stirs against Antigone’s uncle and siblings choose different sides, Antigone will have to make hard choices and face consequences.

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