________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 38. . . . June 1, 2018



Philippa Dowding.
Toronto, ON: DCB/Cormorant Books, 2018.
205 pp., trade pbk. & HTML, $12.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-77086-512-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77086-513-6 (HTML).

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by Ronald Hore.

***˝ /4



Mother whirrs and tucks me back into my bed.

“William1 already knows,” she soothes. “Now go to sleep.” She holds me briefly in her cool metallic arms, and I feel calmer. She does give good hugs, along with the excellent blanket tucking.

“Goodnight Mother,” I whisper.

“Goodnight Miranda my darling,” she whispers back. The silver “M1” on her purple armband glistens in the low light of the room, a perfect match to my own armband. Mother blows out the candles, then I hear her leave and roll along to her cupboard. I have fallen asleep to the gentle squeak of her wheels as she exits my bedroom since I was four. It makes me drowsy. Tonight, though, I notice that her wheels are very squeaky again. I shall have to tell Toolman.

I fall asleep and dream about Mother’s metallic grip, the opening of Oculum tomorrow, and the promise of fresh air.


Oculum is a middle grade novel set in a future Earth that has been severely damaged by plague and environmental collapse. The story is told through the point of view of three characters. Our main character is Miranda1, a 13-year-old girl living inside an enclosed environment monitored by robots. She has no idea there is an outside world. Mannfred is a boy living on the outside and struggling to survive in a world that seems to be dying all around him. The people there are poor and simply trying to exist among the ruins of our previous civilization. Mothers and grandmothers form an important part of Mannfred’s world. The third main character is William1, the first boy to find his way out of Oculum. He is the same age as Miranda1, and the pair are the eldest of the children in this closed environment.

     The Oculum is the vent at the top of the closed environment in which a thousand children have been born and raised by robotic mothers. They are kept safe within the rules by other robots known as Sentries. Oculum is also the name of the entire sealed complex. A robot called Regulus is in charge. The story revolves around the growing knowledge by Miranda1 and William1 that there is a world outside of the place where they were nurtured and taught. Balancing their narrative is the journey of Mannfred and his family to reach the ruined city where the Oculum is located. Both stories revolve around the conflicts the children face until they finally meet at the book’s conclusion.

     Oculum’s chapters are headed by the name of the child whose adventure is being told. Well-written and an imaginative description of a future world struggling to survive, Oculum ends on a positive note, and the book should appeal to both boys and girls in search of adventure.

Highly Recommended.

Ronald Hore, involved with writers groups for several years, dabbles in writing fantasy and science fiction in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

© CM Association

Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
ISSN 1201-9364
This Creative Commons license allows you to download the review and share it with others as long as you credit the CM Association. You cannot change the review in any way or use it commercially.

Commercial use is available through a contract with the CM Association. This Creative Commons license allows publishers whose works are being reviewed to download and share said CM reviews provided you credit the CM Association.

Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - June 1, 2018.

CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive