This sci-fi coming-of-age story finds young adults struggling against being complacent workers in a hive society.
In a future in which humans have abandoned the planet’s surface to live in crowded underground “hives,” world governments imprint instructions into the minds of their citizens. Criminals’ memories are wiped to remove criminality, and crime victims’ brains are similarly altered to remove their traumas. Natural-born telepaths, such as a teenager named Amber, are extremely rare and conscripted into service at age 18, when they must begin scanning citizens’ minds for violent intentions. Because of her powers, Amber is one of only a handful of people in her society who are allowed to retain their senses of self. As the head of an elite law enforcement team, she has all the trappings of wealth and power, but she begins to find that she can’t trust her own thoughts; she also begins to fall in love with Lucas, a team member whose mind is the most complex and beautiful that she’s ever scanned. Slowly, she realizes that a recurring dream that she’s had since childhood is a mental echo of a real event, when she was kidnapped and programmed by her hive’s enemies. With Lucas’ help, Amber must set a trap for the enemy agent who programmed her and find some way to protect herself, her family, and her hive from the unknown instructions hidden deep within her mind. Author Edwards (Earth and Fire, 2016, etc.), a prolific, Oxford University–educated sci-fi writer, offers the first installment of a new trilogy here. Although she rewards readers with several big revelations by its end, there’s more than enough mystery remaining to support two more books, as the clues are hidden in Amber’s memories, and her struggles to retrieve them reveal the hive’s true vulnerability: a society that wipes people’s memories can’t learn from its own history. With vivid prose, Edwards also manages to make the hive spaces seem vast or claustrophobic by turns; along the way, she also offers a thorough analysis of the costs of isolationism—to individuals and to a nation as a whole.
A fresh, nuanced examination of the human desire to define itself in the face of societal norms.