Book Review: The Starving Years by Jordan Castillo Price

Posted: July 20, 2013 by sidlove in 3.5 Star Reviews, Book Reviews, Shelley's Reviews
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Reviewed by Shelley

The Starving YearsTITLE: The Starving Years
AUTHOR: Jordan Castillo Price
LENGTH: 286 pages
BLURB: Imagine a world without hunger. In 1960, a superfood was invented that made starvation a thing of the past. Manna, the cheaply manufactured staple food, is now as ubiquitous as salt in the world’s cupboards, pantries and larders.

Nelson Oliver knows plenty about manna. He’s a food scientist—according to his diploma, that is. Lately, he’s been running the register at the local video rental dive to scrape together the cash for his exorbitantly priced migraine medication.

In a job fair gone bad, Nelson hooks up with copywriter Javier and his computer-geek pal Tim, who whisks them away from the worst of the fiasco in his repurposed moving truck. At least, Nelson thinks those two are acquainted, but they’re acting so evasive about it, he’s not sure how they know each other, exactly. Javier is impervious to Nelson’s flirting, and Tim’s name could appear in the dictionary under the entry for “awkward.” And with a riot raging through Manhattan and yet another headache coming on, it doesn’t seem like Nelson will get an answer anytime soon. One thing’s for sure, the tension between the three of them is thick enough to cut with a knife…even one of those dull plastic dealies that come in the package with Mannariffic EZ-Mealz.


New York City in the not too distant future is a pit of disparity. A dark and dangerous city suffering from unemployment, stringent population control extortionately priced medication and overpriced food. Society is suffocating under the control of corporations like Canaan products; manufacturers of the world’s new food, Manna. Manna is an alfalfa based tofu type food, flavoured and fucked with in laboratories to manipulate cravings, metabolisms and hormones. These corporations have monopolised industry, finance, government and the general population for years. Screwing everyone sideways and glossing it over with their boundless ‘generosities.’

When a riot fuelled by yet another knock on effect of corporate monopolisation turns to anarchy in the streets, a rag tag group of five escapes the madness together. Unwittingly (for some) they set out to discover the root of the latest incitement and stumble across the means to finally expose ‘the soulless corporate fucks’.

Tim and Javier had a plan to meet (for more than just the cause) until Javier arrives at the rendezvous point with three strangers in tow. Nelson, interloper number one, is a cool confident wise guy who latched onto Javier with lusty intent the moment he saw him. Interlopers two and three are Randy and Marianne: Randy likes to play devil’s advocate and Marianne, she brings a kindly and welcome feminine perspective.

Nelson’s a sexy tattooed bad boy, and Tim is the sweet, shy and bumbling guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. Tim is instantly infatuated with Nelson but Nelson’s too focussed on laying his hands on Javier to notice; and Javier … he fancies Tim (a lot) but can’t say no to Nelson either. So we have a trio of lust between The Good (Tim), The Bad (Nelson) and The Ugly (Javier … No, that’s not fair. Javier is the sexiest of all with his piratical eye patch) I just liked the reference.

Jordan Castillo Price excels at world building and characterisation (fact), and The Starving Years is no exception. There is no push and pull with her characters, and I love that. She gets on with it and needs no apologies or analysis for her characters motivations. JCP makes any situation real enough for me not to have to suspend my disbelief.

She effortlessly pulls you into this world of stale, ionized air and keeps you fully focussed on the here and now, to the point of echoing the claustrophobic emotions of the desperate and unwashed. It’s a fast pace to have to keep, but the gruesome horror scenes inject enough adrenaline to keep you going. JCP is a genius when it comes to describing the tech and biological stuff. I haven’t a clue if it’s all true or not, but hell! The lady can tell it like it is, and that’s good enough for me.

This is a long book (well, it felt long) but somehow it’s not long enough. I don’t mean that from a greedy reader perspective; I mean that it feels … inconclusive, unresolved, and unexplained, whatever you want to call it. The end came too soon and was wrapped up with scruffy brown paper. JCP has created such an in depth intriguing world but fails to clear up too many important questions to satisfy my curiosity. Maybe I missed it? Perhaps it was a case of, finish painting your own picture because I drew the dots and did most of it already? I don’t know …

You know what I do know? I know that I like the subliminal messages I find in these pages and her dystopian world always provide some food for thought – pun totally intended (I’ll add a pound to the bad pun jar okay). I know that this author is exceptionally gifted and if you decide not to read this one because you don’t fancy a little bit of ménage, please try her PsyCop series or Zero Hour, but whatever you do, don’t overlook this author … you’ll only kick yourself later.

Shelley’s Rating: 535px-3-5_stars-svg

BUY LINK: Book Store

Shelley is one of the official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love.

To read all her reviews, click the link: SHELLEY’S REVIEWS

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