Review: Subway | Palliatopia by S.W. Lothian

I was offered an Author Review Copy of Subway | Palliatopia in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions listed below are my own.

Title: Subway | Palliatopia (Subway #1)

Genre: YA Dystopian Thriller

Length: 265 pages

Blurb: EVERYTHING HAS A PRICE. In a world that’s self-obsessed, every moment is shared, and every move is posted. If you don’t follow, you don’t care. Those who don’t care, aren’t worth the time.

The city of New York grows by half a million people per annum. Each year over 20,000 go missing – that’s more than 50 per day. Of these, 6,500 are runaways, and 12,700 are found alive, but 1400 are never found.

Does anyone notice? What happens to them?


Subway | Palliatopia follows Wil through multiple levels New York City – a refreshingly real-world setting after several samplings from the high fantasy genre.  When Wil’s new, conconformist friend Cass disappears mysteriously on the subway instead of meeting Wil at their favorite Starbuck’s, Wil begins a frantic search for his friend through the New York City subway system.

After a seemingly paranormal encounter on a subway, Wil — along with fellow subway passengers Iggy and Macy — is isolated in a sham hospital in Palliatopia, a mysterious underground compound populated by hundreds, if not thousands, of missing New Yorkers.  The doctors claim to treat accident-induced injuries he doesn’t remember getting – plus extended hospital stays for monitoring and “therapy,” whether you want it or not.  Wil and his newfound allies (and frenemies) aren’t immune to Palliatopia’s horrors.  Their self-preservation instincts are high, but they don’t seem to be the type of main characters who get armed inexplicably with personal shields.

Wil eventually learns the real reason he and countless others have been abducted from subway train cars, and nevertheless formulates a plan to find Cass down here and escape….


S.W. Lothian paints richly detailed images of New York City’s topside (and dark, occasionally AstroTurf-coated underbelly) through character dialogue (sometimes written in phoenetic Brooklyn-esque accents) and descriptions of seemingly mundane background elements.  Ever present throughout these early chapters is the smart, touchscreen-activated technology — as well as a thinly veiled disdain for it even when it’s a necessary “evil” in the main characters’ own lives … and yet, is it truly, constantly evil?  The book is quick to point out that smart tech, with its limited battery life, isn’t infallible.

I think what I enjoy most about the story is that it doesn’t fall trap to cliches or attempt to finish itself before it ought to.  If this were a movie, Wil would bust into the part of Palliatopia where they’re keeping his friend, and escape in the most dramatic way possible.  Done, the end.  It would be told from his perspective alone, save for Cass’s prologue.  Instead, you really get immersed in the story and the settings.  You get into the heads of the missing friend, the the unlikeliest of allies, and even the villains.  Any lack of dimension in the ensemble of characters is made up for in the altogether thorough narrative.

Now, S.W. pitched the book to me as intended for older young adults. It’s definitely a macabre read.  There are several on-page deaths, including multiple suicides (to avoid further or anticipated torture in Palliotopia).  The dehumanizing treatment of Palliatopia’s inmates is certainly not for the faint of heart.

The profanity content escalates progressively through the book’s first half, starting along the lines of cr*p, d*mn, *ss, frick, then b*stard, sh*t, d*****bag, and then culminating the big, bad F-word.  I can’t say I was too happy about any of what I read leading up to that, but at that point, I had to stop reading.  While my own sensitivites have numbed with time (something I’m not exactly proud of), I could not, in good conscience, indicate that I endorse such a book to this blog’s intended audience of young readers. The next generation of readers who deserve better than the Newbery Award winners of my childhood.

So I put the book down with half a book review written, and not entirely positive one at that.  My honest opinion was, I didn’t like this book, because it made me uncomfortable.  But that doesn’t mean others won’t feel differently.  Less-sensitive people are likely to enjoy this more – after all, I enjoyed it if not for the seemingly gratuitous expletives.  If I posted my review, it could hurt his sales.  So I let the author know where I stood and why I couldn’t keep going.  Then, I braced myself for judgement, for a lecture about how I ought to grow up and be less sensitive, and how there’s something wrong with me because “all the other kids” loved this book….

To my pleasant surprise, what happened instead was a polite, constructive conversation and an affirmation of S.W.’s belief that “all reader feedback is important and an author aims to make readers happy.”  If the book’s use of strong language made little old me unhappy, he was ready to call off the book’s release and tone it down — but I talked him out of that.  My concerns, diminished as they are, are not that common anymore, especially at the intended reading level; he shouldn’t censor his creative vision just for one overly sensitive child-at-heart.

So we came to a compromise.  S.W. sent me a special, slightly toned down Allison Edition of Subway for me to finish, because if not for the strong language, I’d have finished the book in a single sitting.  This version of the book is one that I can recommend in good conscience, though it is mine alone to read.  If you want access to it, I encourage you to write to Mr. Lothian directly — perhaps if enough people are interested in a relatively expletive-free version of Subway | Palliotopia, perhaps it can be more than just a special edition for me alone.

Subway | Palliotopia comes out on the 4th of April, and is available for preorder NOW (since March 25th).  You can learn more about the book and its author (who assures me that the rest of his books are far, far milder in terms of expletive usage) using the links below:

Subway | Palliatopia

S.W. Lothian

  • Facebook | S.W.Lothian : Author
  • Twitter | @swlothian
  • Instagram | swlothian
  • Goodreads | S.W. Lothian
  • Website |


If you’d like me to read and review your book on my blog, Allison the Writer, please click here to learn more.  TL;DR? I generally enjoy clean, secular stories of the low-fantasy, mystery, and sci-fi genres.  If your book fits those categories, chances are, I’ll read it from cover to cover and enjoy every page. 🙂


What is your stance on including profanity and generally mature content in juvenile literature?  Leave a comment below with your thoughts!

2 thoughts on “Review: Subway | Palliatopia by S.W. Lothian

  1. S.W.Lothian | Author says:

    Hi there Allison, thanks do much for your honesty and support. The core of this story is a thriller that shows where society may be heading and of how easy it is to just notice the surface and ignore the unpleasant. Although the cursing was only a tiny component of the almost 100k word book, I was pleased to create a special Allison Edition for you. BTW – After our chat, I did remove a few of the curses from the final edition 😉 without compromising the action, suspense, or dramatic components of the plot.

    Liked by 1 person

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