Ruby's Realm

Making the world a better place one kill at a time! (The Regulators)

Fiction - LGBTQ
100 Pages
Reviewed on 12/07/2021
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Ray Hosler for Readers' Favorite

Ruby’s Realm by Debbie Zain is one of those reads that warrants at least two passes before the story’s deep and introspective messages can be unwound and fully understood. This is a fantasy wrapped in a psychological thriller. The author’s character, Ruby Ray, takes us into the mind of a transgender who has emotional baggage that causes her to question her life and purpose in the world. She attends Manchester University to study criminology, “because I thought it would be a place where I could be myself.” The story begins with a disturbing scene not for the faint of heart. Ruby witnessed the murder of her mother by a man when she was 11. The fantasy begins when an alien life from the realm of Omnipion, named Terrance, seeks Ruby’s help in stopping a man named Paul, known as a Tainter on Omnipion, from killing a young mother. Omnipion is a place where all sentient beings wind up, eventually. Their time on earth is a way to test their true nature. Ruby agrees to help the Regulator but is taken aback when she is informed Paul will be killed before he can commit murder. She must decide between two terrible choices: Cooperate and save the mother, or kill the murderer.

Author Debbie Zain’s novella is only slightly more than seventeen thousand words, but you will find yourself wanting to read it two or three times. The mental struggle Ruby suffers — her gender dysphoria — elevates the tension between Ruby and the Regulator, who has absolute power and control over her. Ruby’s intense desire to change her identity is promised by the Regulator, further heightening the difficult decision she must make regarding Paul’s fate. Zain, who calls her writing “urban fantasy,” has a knack for integrating current themes in her writing. Popular books/films that show through in Ruby’s Realm, like strands of DNA, include the classic British spy show, The Prisoner, Inception, The Matrix, and Minority Report.

Zain’s writing has a coarseness to it that might upset the sensitive reader, but there is depth in the writing that goes well beyond the simple storyline. By having the Regulator occupy Ruby’s body, the reader is constantly wondering who is doing what. Whose thoughts are controlling Ruby? Do we have free will? How far will we go to achieve a goal? In a roundabout way, the reader will come to understand that everyone deserves empathy, even killers. Ruby’s Realm deals with thorny topics like suicide, murder, free will, and destiny using at times brash, brusque language that will both disturb and engage, and leave you contemplating life’s meaning long after the last page is turned.