Look to the Sun
by Emmie Mears
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 28 Oct 2021 | Archive Date 21 Oct 2021
This dystopian masterpiece by Emmie Mears gives a “message of hope, acceptance and courage during the worst of times [and] will entrance the reader with its artistic flair, complexity and delivery of raw emotion.” (InD’Tale Magazine).
For fifteen years, the National People’s Voice has ruled in relative peace, quietly snuffing out dissent wherever it’s found. Silently enforcing their views and doctrine upon the people of Sanmarian as citizens disappear overnight and businesses mysteriously close.
Rose Abernethy and Beo Mataya are two strangers drawn together by one thing alone: Red Sunrise. A mysterious book no one else seems to have read. A book only two types of people ever ask about—collectors and the National People’s Voice. A book both Rose and Beo feel was written just for them and that strangely seems to echo what is currently going on in their beloved city.
As the facade of calm seethes into violent protests, Rose and Beo are caught in the middle. Drawn into the center of a forgotten tragedy, they discover the book may not only hold the key to the secret of the city’s past but also the key to its future.
A Note From the Publisher
"The terrifying timeliness of Look to the Sun’s oppressive regime puts this book on par with the best of dystopian novels." —Foreword Reviews Magazine (starred review)
"chock-full of twists, turns, and inspiring moments that make for satisfying reading. The majority queer cast…is a breath of fresh air. Readers looking for dystopian fiction foregrounding LGBTQ relationships will find this well worth checking out." —Publishers Weekly
"...[the] message of hope, acceptance and courage during the worst of times will entrance the reader with its artistic flair, complexity and delivery of raw emotion." —InD’Tale Magazine
A heart-wrenchingly soulful reminder that love is love, even when queer safety is threatened by the torment of growing fascism. Mears gives us hope that compassion can flourish even as fear clamps down on our hearts. —R J Theodore, author of The Peridot Shift series
"LOOK TO THE SUN fixes an unflinching gaze on a city boiling under the fascist boot, and uplifted by the brighteness and joy of ordinary people who refuse to knuckle under. It's a terrific demonstration of how stories matter, that resistance is a choice, and that if we persevere we might pull through after all. LOOK TO THE SUN pointed at poisons bubbling in our own world and refused to let me look away." —Phoebe Barton, author of The Luminous Underground
—Featured as a Grab-a-Galley selection at Publishers Weekly booth at the PW US Book Show
—Live Author Interview and featured title at publisher’s booth at U.S. Book Show and other venues
—ARC promotion on NetGalley & solicitation for reviews to key trade sources.
—Marketing to book box subscription services
—Email marketing to libraries & bookstores
Average rating from 15 members
Absolutely love! Pulls you in and keeps your interest right from the start! Highly recommend! This book is unlike any other I’ve read and is great for anyone who wants a book that will keep you hooked
In LOOK TO THE SUN, a young woman (Rose) and a young man (Beo) find themselves caught up in a life-changing romance, a fascist takeover, and a counterrevolution, all in a dieselpunk secondary fantasy world. But wait! There's more! What kind of more? Queer characters, poly characters, trans characters. An almost Borgesian subplot featuring a novel the two main characters have read obsessively for over a decade and which their own lives seem to be echoing in curious ways. Abuse survivors. Book burnings. The power of friendship and love VS the evils of a Nazi-like party obsessed with gender purity, gender roles, and ethnic purity. Also spies and revolutionaries and so many secret passages. About the only criticism I have of it is that once or twice the characters got a touch speechy in ways that seemed a little out of joint with the situation they were in and distracted me from reading (e.g. a character who has been starved and beaten gives a several-paragraph argument about why the fascists won't win), but that was a minor thing and at almost every single turn the characters felt authentic, believable, and--to be honest--like people I'd love to be friends with. Plus, this novel is very unapologetically political, so I feel like it's a feature, not a bug, for the political speechifying to be embedded in its characters' dialogue! A couple of other notes: This one starts off as a slow burn but quickly becomes impossible to put down. It's a wild ride, and one I enjoyed every minute of. I stayed up far too late reading it a couple of nights in a row, which is always a sign I'm heavily into it. The novel does cover some dark themes, including executions, depictions of abuse, depictions of suicide, misogyny, transphobia, ethnic cleansing. If any of those are topics that will put you in a bad head space, steel yourself before you dive in. Overall, the bright spots outweigh the darkness. I especially appreciated the way emotional and physical abuse was treated, with zero victim blaming and the other characters repeatedly reaching out to uplift and help those struggling through abusive relationships or their aftermaths. Likewise, the normalization of characters in poly and queer relationships and of trans characters' bodies was lovely. Overall, if you're in need of a bit of brightness to get you through some dark times, I would highly recommend. The characters and their growth will stay with you for a long time, I suspect.
The story deals with the rise of persecution (NPV - National Peoples Voice) towards “deviant.” If you like categorization, I would describe it as a mix of dystopian political thriller and romance with elements of mystery and strong twists. I found it well-written and immersive.
(ARC received in exchange for honest review at www.netgalley.com) Emmie Mears’ ’Look to the Sun’ is more than just genre fiction - it’s a condemnation of fascism and bigotry, set against a fantasy backdrop. The city of Sanmarian is awash with protest over the National People’s Voice’s authoritarian regime, and in the midst of chaos, Rose loses a precious memento that belonged to her father. When her despair is captured on camera by local photographer Beo, their fates become intertwined as they bond over their shared obsession with a novel the NVP despises. When the city burns and the revolution begins, Rose and Beo find themselves at the heart of a storm about to change everything… Make no mistake, ‘Look to the Sun’ is political down to it’s very core. Mears makes no attempt to disguise that the NVP is an allusion to Naziism, or perhaps even the turbulence of the United States during the Trump Era. In making these parallels, she ties her story intrinsically to the emotions past atrocities evoke, lending power to her narrative and uniting her readership in revulsion as the NVP’s inhumanity become the crux of the book’s conflict. Mears never shies away from the horrors of fascism, peppering her story with book burnings, execution, ethnic cleansing, abuse and depictions of suicide. That’s not to say she revels in this darkness, mind - she also dabbles with romance and the normalisation of queer culture, infusing the story with humanity that balances the barbarism on display with a message of hope. Mears’ political commentary never feels overbearing, working in tandem with her world-building and her characters to create tension that propels her narrative to new heights. All that being said, I’ve got some admissions to make. Whilst I can acknowledge the strength of Mears’ storytelling and appreciate the message she has to convey, her style of writing never quite worked for me. Throughout my time with ‘Look to the Sun’ I couldn’t shake the feeling that it all just felt a little prosaic and dreary. On occasion it actually took some of the impact out of the more emotional passages, her prose never quite fully immersing me. I also had issues with the city itself, which at times felt rather bland by fantasy standards, perhaps as a result of the colour palette chosen or simply down to the the humdrum technology on offer. I’m not entirely sure how much these criticisms are coloured by personal preference rather than mistakes on the author’s part, though I still feel a more lively style of writing would have been beneficial when tackling some of the more poignant plot points. In conclusion, ‘Look to the Sun’ is a fantastic novel, a bizarre hybrid of fantasy and political thriller that serves as a stark reminder to be mindful of our past, lest it creep up on us once more. Though I never felt entirely comfortable with Mears’ writing, the merits of her story more than make up for any unfortunate literary quirks, as do the motifs that elicit the requisite emotions to further elevate her work. I would absolutely suggest you pick this up when it releases October 28th - it’s absolutely worth it.
In Look to the Sun we meet Beo and Rose, a young man and woman who live in the fictional dystopian setting of Sanmarian, whose relatively normal existence is thrown into chaos as the ruling party, the fascist NPV, becomes increasingly extreme. Both Beo and Rose have friends and family affected by the new rules such as women no longer being able to own businesses, of anything other than heteronormative relationships being banned, and dissenters being whisked away without trace. As books burn and protests grow increasingly violent, Rose and Beo meet, brought together by a shared love of a book that no-one else seems to know much about. As the world around them is brought close to collapse, they must do all they can to not only survive, but also ensure that the revolution in which they find themselves doesn’t fail. This book is wonderful! The language is rhythmic and beautiful, and I loved every word. I grew to care about each character, all of whom are fantastic, and loved the echos of the tale to the politics of both the past (1930s Germany) and far more recent times. I would certainly read more by this incredible author, and would recommend this book to anyone interested in politics or dystopian fiction. My thanks to the author, NetGalley, and the publisher for the arc to review.
This was a really great book, I ended up finishing this in just one sitting! It was a really interesting and engaging story, that I could not put down! I would definitely recommend this book in the coming winter months, it would be a perfect addition to a cosy winters night in, you won't regret it!
A city on the brink of civil war is a lousy place to start falling in love, but it turns out to be a perfect place to set a love story. In Look to the Sun, by Emmie Mears, a series of chance events in the first pages leads Beo to Rose. They share a love-at-first-sight look that comes straight out of a romance. The difference for these lovers is that a menacing, anti-LGBT+ and anti-polyamory fascist government is intent on turning the city of Sanmarian into a place where men are men, women are housewives, and there is no place whatsoever for anyone who refuses to conform. So while a civil war maybe isn’t a great place for finding the love of one’s life, it’s absolutely a great place to find the strength to fight for everyone’s right to love who they love. Rose and Beo have one thing in common before they meet. They’ve both read a book that no one else has ever heard of. After they track each other down after their first accidental meeting, the book helps them connect. Meanwhile, the fascist government is making moves to ramp up their transformation (they call it reconditioning) of society. Anyone who stands in their way is disappeared. Propaganda and slogans of their views are daubed across the city, to entice like-minded people to their side and warn their enemies that their time is coming. Rose and Beo barely have time to understand their feelings—let alone declare them—before they also have to ask themselves how involved they want to be in the resistance. For all the fear and violence in Look to the Sun, I found myself falling in love with the protagonists and Sanmarian. I loved seeing all the throuples and same-sex couples living together without anyone questioning the normality of it. I loved that no one faced any shame or discrimination because of their sexuality or gender expression. I also adored the way that so many different European traditions are blended together into the cities culture: Pamplona’s running of the bulls, the Mediterranean’s warm stone architecture, street food and tea, and so on. I want to go to Sanmarian (but after the revolution, of course). I just can’t say enough good things about this novel; I loved every page.
Content warning: fascism, suicide (depicted), domestic abuse, homophobia The National People’s Voice have ruled over Kael for the last 15 years, and our story begins when things escalate in city-wide protests in Sanmarian, the capital. Beo and Rose are strangers drawn together by one novel that the fascist regime seems determined to destroy. Amidst incredible reveals, deep tragedies, tender moments of human connection, and more, this book does a phenomenal job of depicting survival despite insidious oppression. A dystopian wonder that is difficult to read at times, but the hopeful ending is so, so, so earned. Sanmarian is the most lived-in city I’ve read in a while. There’s a sense of history but also a sense of what day-to-day life is like. The disruption of the status can not be felt among the characters but in the city’s life as well. It’s masterfully crafted, and it’s clear that a lot of research went into the type of story Mears wanted to tell. I got a sense that a lot of came from Polish contemporary history, and the author’s note confirms it. Though things suck in Sanmarian throughout the narrative, it’s definitely a place that feels like it can easily be visited. I loved Rose and Beo’s relationship so much. There’s a slow-burn but precise connection there that wonderfully threads throughout the plot. I can’t reveal too much about how it all comes together, but it really made my jaw drop. The intricacy of the fiction within the fiction really works here, and Mears pulls it off. Plus, we get so deep into their backstories that enriches the lived-in-ness of the world. I just think it’s really neat. The plot itself, however, is, at times, difficult to read. The actions taken by the National People’s Voice feel so contemporary in a way that really gets under your skin. Mears crafts a dystopian set-up that feels like it’s happened in our world. There’s propaganda that feels familiar and actions taken against unwanted citizens which made me have to put the book down and collect myself. Despite this darkness, the characters shine bright and their hope and commitment to each other provides the light at the end of the tunnel.
Rose have read Red Sunrise since she was a child. To her, the book is everything. Few others have read it, and no one else shares her feelings - until she meets Beo in a love-at-first-sight monent, picked from a storybook. The two realise the dangers connected to the book as the fascist-party National Peoples Voice come looking for it. They are suddenly tangled in a web of secrets and problems that neither had forseen, and the way out is not simple. This is a political fiction where Mears puts focus on acceptance, courage and hope in times of a rule undermining certain society groups. There is a big focus on the LGBTQ-society, which in this world is very big, but still frowned upon by the leadership. I really liked this aspect of the book, and as a straight person I felt that it was so special to get a glimpse of the struggles and feelings that the characters meet. I feel that I have learned a lot and I really enjoyed the book, but I think that it will be even better for anyone from the community as they might recognise themselves in the characters in different way than I do. A well written book, with interesting characters, a good storyline, and vibrant view on society problems. I definitely recommend it!