A convict agrees to an experiment that instantly ages him—corresponding to his sentence—but returning to the life he knew proves a punishing task in this debut sci-fi-infused thriller.
Twentysomething carjacker Danny Fierro didn’t actually commit the murder that sent him to jail. But because the victim was a cop, the judge deems Danny as guilty as his partner in crime, killed in return fire. Devastated that his pregnant girlfriend, Sonya de Leon, writes him off after giving birth, Danny takes little solace in his public defender getting him a chance at parole, as it’s not for three decades. This, however, makes him a candidate for Premium Sentencing, a procedure that takes the same number of years away from prisoners that they have left to serve. Danny, then, is suddenly age 55, earning freedom, along with fellow “processees.” Unfortunately, Sonya doesn’t seem interested in starting a family with a much older Danny, who has trouble adjusting, enduring stomach pains and getting caught up with vicious pushers of a vitality-restoring drug. It’s worse for other processees, most of whom develop mental disorders or commit suicide. Conlan Laboratories, where it all began, is up to something dubious, which may entail further experiments with Danny—his willingness to participate merely incidental. Despite a plot steered by fantastical science, Takemoto wisely keeps it shrouded in mystery, not revealing Premium Sentencing’s origins until the end. The story adopts a searing examination of rehabilitation: the public, referring to Premium Sentencing by the blunter term Bio-Justice, treats processees as deserving of their psychological fallout, while some criminals retain their violent ways, even though they’re now quite a bit older. Most convicts, and especially Danny, garner sympathy as the tale progresses, aided by poignant descriptions: someone notes that the processees are “hollowed out, soulless—as if they were already dead.” The grounded narrative eases readers into the sci-fi-laden final act, which is rife with shocks and rigorously ties up subplots, including one obscure character’s suicide early in the tale.
A cogent novel that points a glaring light at an unfair justice system.