A nightmarish future is imagined in this science-fiction offering from a debut author.
A stratified quagmire has evolved since the ideals of free speech began to be subsumed by a legal stranglehold requiring that each person be fitted with an electronic arm cuff that literally charges them for each word they speak. As the novel opens, impoverished Speth Jime is in preparation for her 15th birthday celebration, when she must sign the Terms of Service and give a speech that marks her induction into this heavily litigated system. Then the unexpected actions of a friend spur her to impulsively decide to cease speaking, setting off a course of events marked by both hope and tragedy. Of Latino descent (Jimenez was shortened to Jime in a previous generation), Speth is a reluctant and vulnerable hero. Readers will easily identify with her underdog struggle against the powers that be, even as they may become bogged down at times with the dizzying complexities of the repressive society in which she lives. Fast-paced action sequences provide a welcome balance to her anxious, often self-doubting inner monologues, and the flashes of a freer history that she glimpses throughout are effectively chilling.
A fresh and detailed dystopian tale that will capture and make demands upon the attention of its readers, as the genre should, with a conclusion that sets readers up for the sequel. (Science fiction. 13-18)