A story about the value of one human life.
The man known as Theo Miller works in the Criminal Audit Office, setting the prices for various crimes against society. In a world without the concept of human rights, a capitalist world run completely by the Company, prison is “deeply inefficient.” Far better to charge a price for each crime and send those who can’t pay to work off their debts. It’s Theo’s job to calculate the cost of crime—so much for manslaughter, with deductions if, say, the victim was a resident alien. It’s a bleak but orderly world that’s disrupted when a woman from his past appears, because she knows that he’s not who he says he is, and in return for keeping quiet, she wants to know where her daughter is. To find her, the man known as Theo Miller must risk destroying his own quiet little life—and a lot more lives with it. North (The End of the Day, 2017, etc.) has created a compellingly dark and gritty world where everything has a price and those who can’t pay aren’t treated as human. The sometimes stream of consciousness of the story, with past and present folding over on one another, does distance the reader from events and reduces the tension of Theo’s quest to uncover the truth. Still, the story is strong enough to keep the reader interested.
Style gets in the way of substance here, but North is an original and even dazzling writer, and fans of her work will enjoy this grim tale of capitalism taken to a terrifying extreme.