Chaney imagines a society under total surveillance in this debut sci-fi thriller.
“Why do most boys wish to be firemen?” wonders Marus Winde as he thinks back to his boyhood dream. “It was noble to put out fires, yes. But, it was nobler to prevent them.” Prevention is Marus’ task: he’s a Protector in a time when state security is so robust that it can discover and foil crimes before they occur. Stopping premeditated crimes isn’t enough, though, and Marus works to refine the government’s “Internal Indicator Initiative,” a system meant to predict even unpremeditated crimes by monitoring the population for signifiers of violent behavior. After years of hard work, the initiative is finally ready for implementation—but then the unpredicted abduction of Marus’ son from a soccer game throws Marus’ world into chaos. In a society with no crime, such an incident shakes public confidence in the surveillance state. But if someone has taken advantage of the flaws in the algorithm, then so can Marus. He must go outside the law, outsmart the system that he helped to create, and undermine the compact that the citizens of the New Era have made with their Protectors—all in order to preserve the safety of his family. Chaney writes in tight, confident prose that immerses readers in the fictional world while also summoning ever increasing levels of tension and unease. Her palette is the innocuous corporate jargon of technocracy: “Threat indicators added up, increasing the individual’s total, quantified risk. The higher the level, the greater the threat, the most dangerous of which required immediate, classified action.” Although the premise evokes the work of genre predecessors, such as George Orwell and Philip K. Dick, Chaney’s vision, with its data collection and popular support, has been updated to fit the concerns of the 21st century. She may not have reinvented the wheel, but the wheel she has built is uniquely suited for today’s moment of technological discomfort.
A compelling novel to tease readers’ paranoia.