Salman Rushdie’s Victory City, C.T. Rwizi’s House of Gold and R.H. Snow’s Trail of Travail: Guide to the 2024 Best Novel nominees, Part 4

By Michael Grossberg

* A mythologized historical fable of the cyclic struggle for civilization by a world-renowned British-born Indian-American novelist.

* An Afrofuturist science-fiction story of oligarchy and resistance by an African-born and American-raised writer.

* And the latest sequel in a post-apocalyptic dystopian wild-west Texas saga of genetic manipulation and individualistic resilience by a Texas writer.

Those are just three of 17 wide-ranging sf/fantasy novels published in 2023 and nominated for the next Prometheus Award – a sample of the remarkable variety in subjects, themes, genres and styles possible in stories that explore in different ways pro-liberty, anti-tyranny, anti-slavery or other anti-authoritarian themes.

Here is Part 4 of the Prometheus Blog guide to the Best Novel nominees, with capsule descriptions to whet your appetite for Salman Rushdie’s Victory City, C.T. Rwizi’s House of Gold and R.H. Snow’s Trail of Travail.

Victory City, by Salman Rushdie (Random House, 352 pages) – The mythological fable, set in a fictionalized medieval-India empire founded by a goddess, offers a tragic saga about love, war, youth, aging, the rise and fall of empires and the challenges of advancing and preserving civilization toward at least some epochs of liberty.

The central character is Pampa Kampana, whose centuries-long life and godlike but limited powers give her a unique perspective on the cycles of human civilization.

Weaving both real history and supernatural elements, Rushdie dramatizes how the fruits of freedom can embrace peace, tolerance, pluralism, prosperity, international trade, arts and culture, sexual equality and women’s rights and the rule of law.

Yet, at the same time, Rushdie’s epic and episodic story is a cautionary tale about how power-lust, venality, self-aggrandizement, rivalries, other petty human behaviors and the perennial shortsightedness of kings and rulers can make any epoch of liberty and progress impermanent.

Exploring themes common to classical liberalism and libertarianism, the magical-realist novel is laced with humor, a meta-theatrical self-awareness acknowledging the limits of knowing what really happened in history and a cynical realism about the coercive nature of government.

House of Gold, by C. T. Rwizi (47North, 391 pages) – The Afrofuturist sf story, by a South African author born in Zimbabwe and educated in the United States, takes place in the distant future in a ruling colony on a distant planet where the aristocracy descended from Africa and cybernetic technology extends their lifespans while those serving them suffer under a heavy hand.

The central conflict arises over a group of genetically programmed young adults – highly intelligent Primes, paired with Proxies as bodyguards and lifelong companions bound to their service.

The genetically paired teams, growing up under supervision in a secret underwater laboratory, are designed to struggle against a political system that they’re taught to view as oppressive, oligarchic and illegitimate. Some, however, courageously also struggle to overcome their biological and social programming and go against everything they’re told to feel, to explore what it means to choose for themselves.

Trail of Travail, by R.H. Snow (Rosa de Oro, a Texas Publishing Company, 355 pages) – Billed as the first book in a new Watcher of the Damned: Wanderer series, the dystopian sf novel explores liberty, autonomy and human resilience in a post-apocalyptic future of genetic manipulation and class- and gender-based struggles.

Like its predecessors in Snow’s previous series Watcher of the Damned: Watcher – including Hellraisers & Heartbreakers, Purgatory & Pair’O’Dice and Lone Star Libre!, all 2022 Best Novel nominees – Trail of Travail is set in the same grim and bloody future in Texas, following a deadly “gender-cidal” virus that left transmutated survivors such as the Watcher.

At the center of the frontier-spirited saga are individualistic, self-reliant characters dealing with systematic oppression, their struggle to evade or fight authoritarian control and their ultimate quest for self-determination in a world where liberty is under constant threat.

Coming up on the Prometheus Blog: Part 5 of our guide to the 2024 Best Novel nominees, which will offer capsule descriptions of Daniel Suarez’s Critical Mass, Steve Wire’s Black Hats, Fenton Wood’s Hacking Galileo and Alan Zimm’s Misperceived Threats.

Check out Part One, Part Two and Part Three of our ongoing guide to the 17 2023 novels nominated for the next Prometheus Award for Best Novel.


* Prometheus winners: For the full list of Prometheus winners, finalists and nominees – including the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website, which now includes convenient links to all published essay-reviews in our Appreciation series explaining why each of more than 100 past winners since 1979 fits the awards’ distinctive dual focus.

* Read “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,”an essay in the international magazine Quillette that favorably highlights the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society and the significant element of libertarian sf/fantasy in the evolution of the modern genre.

Prometheus, the light bringer (Creative Commons license)

Watch videos of past Prometheus Awards ceremonies (including the recent 2023 ceremony with inspiring and amusing speeches by Prometheus-winning authors Dave Freer and Sarah Hoyt),Libertarian Futurist Society panel discussions with noted sf authors and leading libertarian writers, and other LFS programs on the Prometheus Blog’s Video page.

Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards and support a cultural and literary strategy to appreciate and honor freedom-loving fiction,join  the Libertarian Futurist Society, a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.

Published by

Michael Grossberg

Michael Grossberg, who founded the LFS in 1982 to help sustain the Prometheus Awards, has been an arts critic, speaker and award-winning journalist for five decades. Michael has won Ohio SPJ awards for Best Critic in Ohio and Best Arts Reporting (seven times). He's written for Reason, Libertarian Review and Backstage weekly; helped lead the American Theatre Critics Association for two decades; and has contributed to six books, including critical essays for the annual Best Plays Theatre Yearbook and an afterword for J. Neil Schulman's novel The Rainbow Cadenza. Among books he recommends from a libertarian-futurist perspective: Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist & How Innovation Works, David Boaz's The Libertarian Mind and Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress.

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