Aug 29, 2012 § Leave a comment
In Teri Terry’s dystopian take on the near future, nobody under 21 is allowed to carry a mobile phone.
There’s worse. (No phone? What could possibly be worse?). Troublesome teens are removed from their families and have chips implanted in their brains to re-boot their personalities. The young heroine Kyla is one of the slated, but as she struggles to get to grips with her new life it becomes clear that in her case the process has not been entirely successful.
The image of the mind as palimpsest, scraped clean and written on a second time, has a respectable history in science fiction, going back to We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. Ian Hocking’s Deja Vu, reviewed earlier, is built around a very similar idea. Terry handles the concept deftly, greatly helped by the fact that her heroine can recall nothing before emerging from hospital. The reader’s gradual introduction to new family, new friends and old enemies mirrors hers.
And unlike the world of The Hunger Games, Terry’s England is creepily familiar. There have been riots and food shortages and the country is in the grip of the sinister grey-suited Lorders, but 16-year-olds still have to go to school to face bullies and unsympathetic teachers, and in the evenings their mothers still ban them from seeing boys with dreamy eyes.
Terry writes well, simply and with an occasional touch of lyricism. The present tense, first person narrative, often so irritating, fits the theme perfectly. The story is pacy and engaging and at the end of each short chapter the reader is hooked into the next.
After a while, though, this becomes wearing. The chapters are a little too obviously tailored to short attention spans and each one seems to finish on an upward inflection, like those annoying people who turn every statement into a question. The final straw is the ending. There isn’t one. The narrative just builds to a climax, then stops. And of course there is a sequel. Only four pounds.
The reader is left with a feeling of disappointment – and not just because she/he wants to know what happens next. However well handled, this is a rather cynical piece of work. Terry knows exactly where the post-Barbie buttons are, and she pushes them in a businesslike manner: parents, siblings, boys and bullies; the sense of being a changeling, someone extraordinary, misplaced and misunderstood in a monochrome world. All first class raw material, but she might have taken the trouble to finish this volume before starting the next.
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