A sci-fi thriller finds an ordinary family besieged by the structure of its seemingly utopian society.
Eight-year-old Corim Colleran is a member of the General Order. He enjoys a time when humanity suffers no disease, war, or famine. Men of the General Order live to be 36 years old, while women die at 37. One day, Corim and his classmates are addressed by Mrs. Winten, part of the higher Counselor Order (whose members reach 77). She shows the children footage of poor, starving, and elderly people, reminding them that “the system that determines how you...live and die is the same system that ensures not only your well-being, but your very existence.” When Corim and his classmates turn 13, they are allowed to visit the soft rooms, where sexuality is explored. Corim and a girl named Kiri become close but not through sex; they take long walks together and learn to value each other’s company. On the verge of adulthood, Kiri is chosen for the honor of working in a brothel, in the service of the higher Orders. When she and Corim have a child together, all seems well until the perfection of their society turns savagely against them. In crafting a narrative haunted by echoes of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Maguire (Drawn Inward and Other Poems, 2016, etc.) portrays a disturbing future of utilitarian horror. Early on, he introduces readers to the notion of Extension, or the ability of this society to revive—for three days—those who accidentally die before their allotted time. The author’s employment of this clever plot device, and the dramatic fallout, offers commentary relevant to all eras of human history, in that “those in power do what they do...because the very act of exercising their power brings them pleasure.” The prose is straightforward and often beautiful, as when young Corim loses his virginity and experiences “that hot foundry where the self melts.” This is a genre-transcending work that anyone who loves passionate storytelling should savor.
A striking feat of mature, humanistic sci-fi that explores a shocking future.