The author of Experiment Station Road (2011) returns with a YA novel about resistance fighters standing against a military government in what’s left of a future America.
An asteroid called “Jurbay” hit the United States in 2063, plunging the western half of the nation into the Pacific Ocean. Only 28 states survived, and they’re currently run by a vicious military called The Third; this organization has outlawed the eating of food (in lieu of nutrient pills); stolen people’s memories of home and family with “locasa” technology; and uses genetically engineered beings (or “GEBs”) to infiltrate and manipulate the masses. In 2083, 22-year-old Avery DeTornada and her friends—McGinty, Pasha, and Shaw—are members of The 28 United, a secret cabal determined to overthrow The Third. When Avery learns that someone close to her has been replaced by a GEB, she misbehaves at the factory where they work so that she can access its inner chambers. During her punishment, she encounters another key member of The 28 United and orchestrates an escape. Once on the run, Avery and company meet feral library children, trash-dump dwellers, and tree minstrels—all of whom see her as their leader in the fight against oppression. The military is wily, however, and The 28 United must conduct a nationwide roll call to see whether they stand a chance. Mansfield begins her new trilogy by dropping readers into a future that’s as propulsive as it is miserable. In marvelous, staccato prose, she describes Avery’s world as “Gray. The sky. The factory. The conveyor belt. The little pills that feed us, heal us, alter us—stabilize us.” The GEBs are reminiscent of the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers but are used so cleverly here that they feel totally fresh. Although the novel is aimed at young adults, sophisticated jolts of turmoil charge the narrative, as when Avery loses “the time to let beauty perform its work on [her] spirit.” Overall, this masterful series opener is in better company with William Gibson’s Neuromancer than safer fare such as The Hunger Games.
An exhilarating ride full of sheer drops and whiplash curves.