Elissa Malcohm: Deviations: Covenant & Appetite

by Rachel Baker on June 23, 2009

malcohn-deviationsappetite-cover-lgThe Deviations series by Elissa Malcohm is interesting, to say the very least.  When I first started reading Deviations: Covenant, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get through the book. On the surface, this series is bizarre.  The first chapter describes a young woman with LOTS of facial and body hair, her preparation for the hunt, the ritualistic killing of another human (?) being for the meat needed to sustain her family.  WHAT?!

The first half of Deviations: Covenant was one of the most vulgar reading experiences I’ve ever had.  My stomach churned, my lip curled in disgust and I contemplated the “I’m sorry I can’t review this” email to the author.

But then things changed. 

I began to be entrenched in the story and what it was REALLY about.  This series is about social cannibalism.  Specifically, its about one society using the resources of another to guarantee their continued existence.  According to the author’s site:

The series focuses on the social, ethical, and spiritual dilemmas surrounding both the literal cannibalism of the societies involved and the many ways in which their different communities feed off each other.

Allow me to get really specific for a few seconds.  The Masari eat the Yata, in exchange for their meat, the Masari consider the Yata gods, and provide them with the resources they need to survive.  There is a covenant between the two societies which makes the killing of the Yata ritualistic and demands the killing only takes place on Meat Day.  The preparation, the hunt and the post hunt is a beautiful spiritual process.  The doomed Yata even gives his/her blessings before the Masari takes his/her life.

There are people in both societies who despise the Covenant.  One group of people hate the idea of having a dependence on another culture that requires them to kill to survive, and one group hates the idea of being revered as gods, and killed so the other culture can continue to thrive.  The inter-dependence between these cultures causes assention all around, but in all the years since the beginning of the Covenant, people have more or less accepted it.  But then the whole idea of the Covenant somewhat shatters when some Masari take in a Yata woman in the woods who was raised as livestock instead of a god.

Deviations: Covenant is about an important discovery TripStone (Masari) has made and about Gria’s (Yata) final preparations for dissolving the Covenant. Deviations: Appetite is about the two groups joining forces to help make the Yata less dependent on the Masari for goods and the Masari less dependent on the Covenant for their survival, while making it a fair fight for the Yata. It is also the beginning of the destruction of Destiny Farm – the place that raises Yata like livestock and then turns around and sells the Yata to Masari when they don’t/can’t hunt – oh and sells better weapons ot the Yata. These books are an interesting study in social cannibalism and the effect it has on different societies – the cannibals, the victims and the factions exploiting both.

It turns out I really enjoyed Deviations: Covenant and Deviations: Appetite and have wondered all week how they will resolve in the third book which comes out in December.  If you are looking for something different with a great story line, I would suggest reading these books.  They are very well written and draw the reader into the story, possibly against their will. There are places in the books that were so beautifully written, I forgot the passage was describing the eating of another human being.

There is a rawness to these books that might make one uncomfortable while reading, but will push you towards completion. I couldn’t help asking myself what would our lives be like if we were dependant on another race’s flesh and blood for our survival? Would the killing be ritualistic? Would we deify the other race? Would I be able to kill another human to ensure the survival of my family? And I gotta tell ya – the answers were disturbing.  Maybe NOW we don’t physically eat the meat of other people, but there sure has been a great deal of cannibalism in our history in one way or another.  In some ways, I NEED to read the third book – I need to see that it turns out fine for both the Yata and the Masari and they can come to a peaceful resolution with the Covenant dissolved. I NEED to know humanity will be okay.

The author, Elissa Malcohn gives the books away in downloadable form for free.  That’s right – she gives them away!  If you go here , she explains why she is giving them away.  She has also given me permission to post the downloadable links here.  These books are free, the download is free and I recommend adding them to your book stack for something a little different.  It probably goes without saying the content of these books are not really PG rated, so be prepared.  Push past the initial reaction of “this is just disgusting” and try to remember there’s a bigger picture here.  I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Here is the link for downloading Deviations: Covenant

Here is the link for downloading Deviations: Appetite

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