A man in the distant future spearheads a revolution against the wealthy ruling class that led many Americans into destitution in Marden’s debut dystopian novel.
Paul Shepherd is just one of the many poverty-stricken citizens living in camps. They’re at the mercy of the Authority, the rich who control everything, from civilians’ food supplies to their electricity. When the Department of Workfare promises jobs in Boston, 5,000 people storm the city and cause rioting, an event ultimately known as the Unrest. The military’s American Security Forces puts a stop to the disturbance, but the Authority is shaken enough to start looking at camp residents as potential Unrest instigators. That includes Paul, despite his older brother Keith being a lieutenant in the ASF. Paul, as it happens, does have something in the works. Ever since his wife, Amery, vanished nearly a decade ago, he’s been collecting cellphones. He’s not interested in the stored points or credits (for medical benefits, etc.) but instead seeks to develop a way to weaponize the phones. If he’s successful, he may be able to stage an uprising and bring down the Authority. Paul gets help from Harold “Ox” Oxford, who finds him parts (i.e., a transmitter), but someone already suspicious of Paul’s plan slyly extracts information from Ox. The author keeps the plot simple, relaying the Authority’s expansive power by focusing on a small batch of characters. Susan, for example, teenage daughter of Derrick J. Hall, one of “the elite,” cuts an implant from her ear and runs away from home. So that no one will know Susan’s gone, her family periodically moves the implant around the house. Paul earns most of the sympathy, with his bright 8-year-old daughter, Katy, and an unsettling flashback detailing Amery’s bizarre disappearance. Marden doesn’t saturate the pages with exposition, smartly revealing specifics of the bleak world as the story unfolds. Paul’s rebellion, too, is slowly mounted but unquestionably effective; it doesn’t rely on violence and ensures its message is clear to citizens––while not overwrought for readers. The ending offers resolution but with a decidedly ominous tone.
A father who fights oppression with the subtlety and poise that the story itself boasts.