Monday, December 28, 2009

Veracity Review

Veracity (HC)
by Laura Bynum
Pocket Books, 2010
Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 978-1-4391-2334-8

Summary: The protagonist, Harper Adams, is a citizen controlled like all the rest. Unlike the rest, she has precognitive abilities. These abilities, like all else of value, are exploited by the State. Harper is used by the highly centralized government as a 'monitor' to analyze potential traitors to the State. After watching numerous horrific episodes of citizen seizure and what passes for law enforcement/punishment, Harper decides to run.

In running, a citizen attempts to go 'off-line.' Citizens are tracked by means of a 'slate,' a medically implanted device. The fully inserted portion encircles the jugular vein in order to discourage removal or modification. The external portion, along one's throat, acts as a transceiver. The slate monitors the location, medical condition and speech of a citizen. A vast and broad number of words have been 'red-listed.' Speaking a red word will have one's slate delivering a shock to the speech violator. A citizen on the run will induce the slate by speaking red words in order to have it short circuit. As one might expect, this is very painful, but leaves the person off-line.

A vast number of off-line individuals have formed pockets of resistance in remote locations. The government, aware of these rogue groups has developed a means to end all resistance and implementation is only a matter of time.

My take: It was 1987 all over again. I was in the eleventh grade and Mr. Greenwald was putting us through our paces in the Dystopian Fiction Literature class I'd signed up for. We were reading Orwell's 1984, Huxley's Brave New World and Zamyatin's We.

Bynum's Veracity is in keeping with that previous list. While it may get categorized as sci-fi, or dystopian, one might as well consider it horror, because it is only too plausible and truly frightening. The story creates a great deal of tension for the reader by showing the suffering and sacrifices of the protagonist, and others, that are made to merely survive beneath asphyxiating oppression. I particularly liked the ending however, as it reaffirmed the human spirit to be free, especially in a location like America where the national psychology is not one that lends itself well to heavy-handed governmental control.

Nagging Drawback: The final action sequence of the story seemed rather muddled. As I tried to picture the events unfolding in my mind's eye, I got turned around and lost all track of the surroundings including sense of direction and the position of the people involved.

Verdict: Recommended
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Incidentally, here's where I commit one of my classic acts of whim and caprice. Reading and reviewing this book, has been the final nail in the coffin for giving numerical ratings, at least for me. As I've been anticipating for quite some time, I found it impossible to use an arbitrary metric to rate the book, in light of books I had previously rated. I've changed the rating process and the new methodology is defined at the top of the main blog page.

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