Remick, Jack. “Citadel”, Quartet Global, 2017.
A Lot to Think About
Jack Remick describes his new novel as “a post-lesbian, meta-fictional, apocalyptic story braided into a contemporary novel.” That’s quite a mouthful but it also perfectly describes “Citadel”. It is a complex and mind-bending coming together of genetic science and a Citadel of women. We are living in a time when often taking risks is a necessity and Remick does just that by giving “a story within a story within a story” that challenges literary genre and writing style and makes us think about important questions, especially what does being a woman mean. We look at the relationships between men and women and how the world would be if women were in control. We look at important issues— domestic violence, crimes against women, misogyny, and rape. We meet the women of the Citadel and among them are scientists, writers, editors, publishers, and the warrior women, protectors of the women of the Citadel called daughters. What I find so interesting is that the stories are not new to us but we have pushed them to the backs of our minds and Reimer pulls them out. At first, I found it somewhat uncomfortable to read about Trisha and Daiva but then I realized that if we had paid more attention the first time we read their stories, the world might be very different today.
This is a difficult book to review because it is so easy to write spoilers but I will try to describe the book and its central character, The Citadel, to you. It is a world without men and therefore there is no rape and all pregnancies are planned. Birth is an altruistic ideal and each daughter chooses the kind of fetus she will carry and decides why she will carry it. Her choice makes her one who perpetuates the race.
Trisha de Tours, an editor at Pinnacle Books has been directed by her boss to find a bestseller. She learns that the new resident in her condos, Daiva Izokaitis, has a manuscript called “Citadel” and Trisha she agrees to read it. It did not take long before she realized that Daiva is a literary rebel. She does not go along with the basics of writing and refuses to be part of the editing process. Daiva’s book is revolutionary and after reading it, Trisha becomes a different woman.
The Trisha that we meet in the beginning is a woman who loves good literature, fine wine and sexy men. For her, men are objects and she is free with her sexual favors to them. She is not looking for anything more than instant sexual gratification; sex is casual but she does harbor a fear that one of her sexual tricks could become violent and even take her life. In this we see the uneasiness of all women even though this is not an overt trait. Women tend to behave in ways that men will not hurt them yet they know that this is not true.
In “Citadel”, Daiva calls this kind of behavior “the Niche” and it is the place where western women exist. Trisha understands that she is lucky to live when she does but she is also aware of the Niche being quite fragile and this sends her thinking. She soon acts s if she is a character in Daiva’s novel “Citadel” and becomes afraid to submit the book for publication because if enough women read it, it could bring an end to all she knows. It becomes even more interesting when Daiva shares with her that in modern science, the Y chromosome is dying and men are not necessary for the continuation of society.
Daiva shares Residual Evolutionary Response that explains that behaviors that have become part of our instinct, even though they are no longer needed or necessary. This is what has happened to the Y chromosome. The traits of strength, mass, and violence which have always been part of the world of men are no longer necessary or even advantageous like men themselves. However, men refuse to change because they believe they have power and women must say no in order to change everything.
Women have become more competent at doing what man alone was supposed to do. As soon as a field opened up to woman, it ceased to be of interest to man. Men then all except for being able to kill, to copulate, and to make war. Once a woman can do the same, it becomes feminine and weak. As a result men have little to do other than create war and trouble.
Women, therefore, have the capability to eliminate men entirely yet they worry if they will still be human if they eliminate men. So you see from what is written here how difficult it is to write about this book. Looking at this book philosophically, we get another level of interpretation but I will only mention comparing an author to God with the ability to create. I have often compared writing a book to pregnancy but Remick takes it even a step farther.
Remick has not only written “Citadel” the book but he has also written about the book but within it. We become very aware of how the book influences those who wrote it and how the characters affect the readers and how the book as a whole has an effect on the world. Not only am I still unsure that I understood the book, I am unsure that I understand what I have written here. “Citadel” has the effect on one and it left me thinking. That is the sign of good literature— it makes us think and it stays with us.