Goldberg gives an original spin to well-worn science fiction concepts (surveillance, conformity, drug use, automation). The sodas Graham drinks are both hallucinatory and mood-altering, and the City more like a Panopticon — residents live in fear of being seen, even when they are possibly safe. However, because the novel tackles so many high-concept ideas, the narrative can feel disjointed. Seemingly important details (an early storyline involving lucid dreaming, for example) get explored briefly and then retired.
Graham is a character with a lot to lose (his banishment to the Zones would mean certain death), one readers will find it easy to root for. Goldberg’s skillful prose adapts to the changing moods of his protagonist. During a particularly lustful moment, Graham hears a woman’s voice “so throaty and alluring that he wanted to climb inside the cave of her mouth and spelunk,” a description that is the perfect balance of shameful and compelling. With its tragic protagonist and new take on illicit drugs, this daring first installment will appeal to fans of smart dystopian fiction.
Takeaway: This hair-rising science fiction novel is perfect for fans of layered conspiracies, altered reality, and eerie dystopias.
Great for fans of: Jeff VanderMeer’s Dead Astronauts, Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A