BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Three hundred years after being put into cryogenic freezing, a man is awakened into a world where humans have become incorporated, buying and selling pieces of themselves, and others.
PROS: Fully realized dystopian world, thought provoking, interesting characters
CONS: Problematic decisions by characters, black & white thinking
BOTTOM LINE: A slow read but a thought provoking one.
Justin was dying of cancer when he had himself cryogenically frozen in an abandoned mineshaft. Woken 300 years later into a new, and very different world, he realizes that he cannot abide the necessity to incorporate – allowing others to buy and sell parts of him as stock. He falls in love with his reanimation specialist – a serious moral crime, and is hounded by Hektor Sambianco on behalf of GCI – the reigning corporation – in whose facility he was reanimated.
This is a very slow read and a thought provoking one. The first 100-150 pages are all character development and world building, as set up for the events later on. Despite being a slow read, it is by no means a boring one. The background information necessary for this book is given in realistic ways, rather than info dumps (with one later exception), and delves more heavily into history and socio-economics than most dystopian novels.
The world is incredible. It’s intricate in all the ways dystopian fiction usually isn’t. Instead of using a corrupt government, the world is focused on corporations and people. Incorporation means that at birth every citizen has 100,000 shares. Parents get 20% and the government 5%. The rest of the person’s value is theirs to barter for services, starting with their education. Saavy people can bargain for a better education at a smaller percentage of their future earnings. The flip side of the system is that shareholders can dictate where you work, audit you if you make decisions they don’t like, and have a say in your life. People who want more control over their lives can buy back their own shares, gaining majority. As pointed out by several characters, this system has the effect of making you care for others you have stock in (and anyone can buy stock in anyone else provided they have the cash for it). You want to see those people succeed so their stock prices rise and you earn money from them. The downside, and where Justin’s problem comes in, is the lack of personal freedoms associated with the system.
Equality between the sexes (or lack thereof) is never mentioned, but there are a few lines that indicates sexual orientations of all sorts are acceptable and, if the names are anything to go by (since physical descriptions are minimal) there’s little to no racism.
One of the issues I had with the book was that, like the future of This Perfect Day by Ira Levin, I actually thought it was pretty good. There’s still poverty (discussed/shown briefly later in the book), but the poor all have jobs and houses, are well fed and able to climb to greater things if they’re lucky and/or work hard. It’s an issue because the majority of the book consists of Justin bucking society to not only remain unincorporated, but, as he’s pushed over and over again by Hektor Sambianco to incorporate, becomes an advocate of unincorporation and freedom for everyone. This decision creates problems Justin didn’t foresee for the world around him.
While I hated Hektor Sambianco as a person, there were times when he was the only one to see the consequences of Justin’s actions beforehand, making his own actions sometimes understandable. Having said that, he causes more problems than he solves by harassing Justin. He views the world in very black and white terms, much as Justin himself does.
It’s a fascinating novel, and a great addition to the dystopian oeuvre. If you’re looking for action, look elsewhere. If you want a book that will make you think about the way the world works, then pick this up.