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Saudade: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson


Looking for a perfect sci-fi summer read? Look no further than The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson. Though classed as a teen book, this is well-suited to older teens and adults.


We are in Brazil’s distant future. Since a plague has decimated the male population, a matriarchy rules. June Costa is an artist and – increasingly – a rebel struggling to define her political beliefs. She is influenced by both upper and lower classes, the very old and the exuberantly young, by friendship and rivalry, by gadgets and rituals, by powerful ambition and a longing to escape. At the centre of everything is the impossibly charismatic contender for Summer King, Enki: a young man who stands for all that is unattainable and destabilizing. Enki is destined for ritual sacrifice, and the astounding pyramid city of Palmares Três seems destined for destruction. June’s loyalties and choices will determine not only her own future, but the future of her home.


Beautifully written, Johnson’s novel is a refreshingly contemporary take on many familiar science fiction themes. This future population believably lusts after technology for purposes of pleasure and fashion above all – but while these inventions and developments race forward, the essential technology underpinning the city’s infrastructure is rusting dangerously into obsolescence. Old beliefs are resuscitated to counter mass fears of disease and destruction, recreating an ancient class structure with all the divisions that entails. While art is culturally treasured, its use to distribute revolutionary political ideas is an endeavour that risks professional prospects and personal safety. Ethnic diversity (which, in The Summer Prince, is the rule and not the exception) has not eliminated prejudices or stereotypes – but at the same time, cultural identity is passionately celebrated. Equally diverse is the representation of sexual orientation, which in this future is shown as a matter of simple fact, long past debate... Love, however, is as unexpected, hopeful, and heartbreaking as it has always been.


While the setting and references may seem far away, Johnson’s story hits very close to home. A strikingly original example of excellent sci-fi, with detailed worldbuilding that doesn’t sacrifice an emotional core and realistically complex characters, The Summer Prince should not be missed. 


Image: The Summer Prince

The Summer Prince

By Johnson, Alaya Dawn