Debut author Bender offers an Orwellian thriller about an amnesiac’s struggle to understand his place in a fascistic country.
The embattled nation in Bender’s novel has recently created the Department of Purity, a new branch of government dedicated to “national unity and security.” When the protagonist, who calls himself “Seven,” wakes up in a forest with no memory of his life, he makes his way into the capital city and soon finds himself immersed in a society where political propaganda plays a monumental role in daily existence. Residents are either called “Patriots” or “Heretics,” and the president’s primary goal is to rid the country of supposed revolutionaries bent on ruining the unity of the general public: “a great cleansing has begun.” Seven goes on to befriend a young man named Adrian at a youth hostel who helps him get a job and find a sense of stability in his largely blank existence. But after Adrian is senselessly murdered by an Elite Guard and Seven kills the government henchman, he turns to the Underground for safety and support—and learns firsthand just how insidiously tyrannical the government has truly become. Fueled by a brilliantly nebulous backdrop, this briskly paced, action-packed novel is undeniably a page-turner of the highest order. Also, many readers will draw immediate comparisons between the Department of Purity and the real-life passage of the USA PATRIOT Act after 9/11. The only criticism of the book comes in its depiction of women; Seven refers to them as “broads” and unapologetically objectifies them throughout. Such sexism notwithstanding, the novel engagingly explores themes such as invasive governmental surveillance and mind control, which makes for a highly entertaining and enlightening reading experience.
A deeply allegorical and powerfully thought-provoking dystopian must-read.