The Phoenix Project
Britain has descended into chaos as violence and terrorist attacks seethe across this once-peaceful country. Outraged by the steady stream of lawlessness, citizens demand a harsher penal system, and the Phoenix Project is born.
In prisons across the country, inmates fight to the death in a weekly bloodbath while the nation cheers them on.
Raven Kennedy, a prisoner who has never forgiven himself for his unspeakable crime, struggles against his own guilt and self-loathing. But even as the real war rages on within himself, Raven is forced to battle some of the prison's most ruthless killing machines. Can he survive long enough to unravel the anger and regret that shackle him - and one day find the forgiveness he seeks?
"The Phoenix Project by D.M. Cain is a superbly written debut, soaked in tension and intrigue," -Jack Croxall, author of the 'Tethers' trilogy-
Other reviews for The Phoenix Project
The Phoenix Project, by D M Cain. D.M. Cain has written a gripping tale of a dystopian society that uses prisoners to perform capital punishment. Fights to the death are promoted in the society at large and broadcast for everyone’s “viewing pleasure.” Character driven, the story examines the depths we can reach, and how it is possible to find our better selves even when surrounded by fear, death, and despair. Clever idea from a true moralist.
Submitted by Michael R. Stern
This was a hard novel because of the compelling brutality of the ‘arena’. Raven Kennedy is sent to prison and in there he has to go into the arena to fight to the death.
This is the Phoenix Project, where those who have committed violent crime have to fight each other. I found the novel quite bleak, but so compelling and unable to stop until I came to the end. I was looking for hope as Raven fought for his life and his inner demons.
The book has had a rewrite since I read it.
Submitted by Karen Mossman
This is a dystopian version of human reality set in a horribly violent prison, with characters of questionable morality and almost no hope for optimism, save naivety. The main (anti)hero Raven is placed in a prison for a crime he did commit, and is forced, along with others, to fight to life or death in the prison arena during televised fights, deluded by the warden’s false promise of early release 5 years later and a zero chance of surviving that long. Along the way you also follow a paralel story of Raven’s life before prison, explaining what led to his crime.
Considering the current events in the world, the story is relevant in its relation to the consequences of terrorism, and is painfully shocking in depicting what people turn into when they are oppressed and afraid the whole time. The author poses a huge challenge before the reader – how do you justify the main character, who is a criminal himself although he claims to hate killing? What punishment would you give or could you give? How much is enough to atone for our trangressions and who is to judge? The corruption of society leaders and the obsession with media fame are too close to home for modern society, adding to the effect of the story on the reader.
The author’s style is consistent in depicting the depressing and overwhelming amount of unnecessary violence, people herded like sheep and subdued by fear, difficulties in forming even simple friendships, let alone meaningful romance. The amount of violence is strongly reminiscent of gladiator fights, and the historical analogy emphasizes the futility of hope for human progress. The story is profused by the dark and gloomy all the way, except for the epilogue which you can read at the link in the end of the story.
The characters are memorable, for all their faults and weaknesses. The inevitable fascination with brutality, madness and the celebrity cult is a vital spiritus movens of the story. You are both shocked and mesmerized by the characters, for instance – the quite extraordinary Millicent and Khan, the brutal brother and sister and the story of how violence shapes them. No character is faultless, nobody beyond reproach, even the seeming ‘good guys and gals’, even despite their redeeming actions and life history.
Raven, the main anti-hero, was difficult to relate with for me – his lack of strength and conviction in his everyday life outside prison is so sad. He tries to please his girlfriend Seraphia by not being himself, he stays with her even after she makes a tragic decision about their common future (trying to avoid spoilers here) and even though he knows she is leaving. This eventually leads up to his crime, which, for the reader, becomes easy to guess, but difficult to condone. You keep wondering why he didn’t just choose a different path. Raven makes all the wrong decisions, and his life is a study into loneliness, depression, weakness, indecisiveness, lethargy, guilt… The feeling of isolation is enhanced by the lack of anything outside the prison from the moment he enters it, which adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere. The final scenes, when he is forced to be alone with himself, are interesting, because people always say it is the most difficult thing in life not to be able to spend time with your own self. Apart from the vivid graphic descriptions, I felt the author could have even done slightly more with this section. The purgatory/hell-like scenery is depicted really well.
However, I cannot recommend this read to everyone, but only because this kind of a story is an acquired taste. The author’s dedication and vision are strong and convincing. I am definitely recommending The Phoenix Project to fans of post-apocalyptic dystopia and those interested in the psychology of violence and loneliness.
What amazes me is knowing that the author must have gone to a really dark place of vision for this story, and is to be commended for persevering in the same tone and mood the entire time, and sticking to conviction, without succumbing to what is easier. Congratulations on that courage.
(On a P.S. note, I have read the epilogue, and as much as my romantic side felt it deserved its readers, it stood slightly separate from the rest of the story in its tone. So many things happen in the epilogue, which soothe the optimists among readers, but compared to the development of the book plot itself, it feels more like a dream than the ‘real’ ending. Nevertheless, I was grateful for the offer of hope and consolation.)