“When she thinks of the time before, she thinks of the photo shoot.“
Sonya Kantor will soon be the youngest resident of the Aperture. Once she lived a privileged life of wealth and respectability, a rare second child for a family in favour. Her father worked for the ruling party, the Delegation. When the revolution came, however, the surviving members of the Delegation, and their families, were thrown into this prison community where Sonya has now lived for 10 years.
And then she’s given a surprising offer: find this missing girl for us, and we’ll let you out permanently. Sonya doesn’t know why her, but she’s willing to try. But the world outside is not what she remembers. A new society has risen, one that is reverting to older tech rather than the brain implanted ‘Insight’: the internet in your head, but also a permanent surveillance device. Every action was tracked, rewarded or punished. Lose coin for raising your voice, gain coin for sitting demurely – or for turning dissenters and rule breakers over to the authorities.
Like many people, I knew the name Veronica Roth from the Divergent series. This is another dystopia, another society held with rigid rules, but it’s a far more grown up affair. Sonya’s world is dark, grim and almost hopeless. There are no jumping-off-buildings action scenes here, but rather a lot of very deep questions about human nature, freedom, and the concept of right and wrong.
It’s also a mystery. As Sonya tries to discover what happened to the missing girl, she’s exposed to a shady underbelly of the new society, as well as discovering dark secrets about the previous one, the one into which she fit so well. Each step raises more questions, as well as pushing Sonya to darker, more raw parts of her own psyche and her past.
As well as being a gripping read, this is the kind of book that challenges you to think. There is so much to unpack here, so many slightly uncomfortably allegories to our own time. It’s easy to see how Google and Apple and wearable tech of all kinds could end up as Insight, and so many ways in which this isn’t the great idea they think it is – and really, bar the brain implanting, we’re pretty much hitting most of them already. There’s also the question – raised outright in the book – of what exactly ‘right and wrong’ mean, when so much changes depending on who’s in charge.
But overall it’s just an enthralling story that kept me wanting to find out more. Recommended, and not just – or particularly for, tbh – fans of Divergent.
NetGalley eARC: 288 pages / 22 chapters
First published: 18th October 2022
Read from 12th-16th September 2022
My rating: 8/10