This is the last work of fiction I’m reviewing for my asexual fiction from Smashwords month.
What is this story about?
The year is 2048, and the company Interface – which is essentially Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon combined – has a monopoly on all computers and electronics based on computer technology, and also basically owns the economy of the United States. Oh, and Interface is also a religion, much more popular than Christianity in the year 2048. Interface is run by a man known as ‘the Father’.
Pen Nowen is the younger daughter of Interface’s founder, who died seven years earlier. Her older sister is a popular model, and the Nowen family lives a life of luxury. Thus, Pen is not too surprised when she is kidnapped, since it’s happened before, and the cost of ransoms are basically pocket change for the Nowen family. But her kidnappers don’t want money. Instead, they want a recording of her dead father’s voice, because aside from the voice of the Father, it is the only other voice which can be used to hack into Interface company headquarters.
This is the beginning of how Pen ends up going on a road trip with her kidnappers from Portland, Oregon to New York City.
What sexual and/or violent content is there in this story?
The sexual content is limited to jokes about how autocorrect mistakenly change’s Pen’s name to ‘penis’ and porn on the internet.
As far as violence, there is the video of Pen’s father committing suicide, as well as attempted assassinations (revealing whether the assassination attempts lead to deaths would be spoilerful, so I will merely note that there may or may not be murder in this story).
Tell me more about this story.
Even though it’s set in the year 2048, it’s really a book grounded in this decade (the 2010s) which takes current trends to absurd extremes. Which I think is the writer’s intent. For example, franchises such as Survior and Star Wars, are still popular, with Survivor: New Jersey and Star Wars Episode XXXVII: The Return of Jar Jar (though, considering the long-lived popularity of pop culture icons such as Sherlock Holmes, this is not unrealistic).
However, aside from the pop-culture references, it delves into themes which are very relevant right now – such as monopolization/power concentration among technology corporations – by taking the current situation and making it even more so.
And we see this world through the perspective of a teenager daughter from an elite family who has a penchant for sarcasm.
Here is a sample of the style:
Lui’s voice was more familiar to me than my sister’s. It was more familiar to me than my own, and I talked a lot. He was the voice of elevators, iTeachers, school interComs, robot guidance counselors, robot cops, robotic guns, semi-robotic guns, robot cars, robot cabs, robot buses, robot airplanes, robot skycaps, robot charging station attendants, robot bathroom attendants, robot shrinks, robot surgeons, robot orthodontists, robot nurses, robot nannies, domestic robots, iSuck robot vacuums, iSquirt robot mops, salesrobots, robot waiters, robot concierges, robot bartenders, robot baristas, Starbucks drive-thrus, McDonald’s drive-thrus, McMansions, high-end hotels, transit systems, airplanes, alarm clocks, crosswalks, and Furbies.
Most of the time, Lui was the one taking directions, but he gave them often enough. Reminders, calendar notifications, alarms. Actual directions, when it came to GIPs. He told us to turn right now, to turn off our phones in the movie theater, to drink the Chianti with dinner. We were used to obeying that voice.
I admit the transition between the more satirical parts of the novel and the more serious parts of the novel seemed a bit … jerky. I also admit that I do not entirely understand why Pen goes along with the kidnappers even though she could get away. I mean, according to the blurb, she does it so she can learn about the truth about her father’s death but somehow … I did not feel that motivation, even though the motivation is stated.
As an action-adventure story, well, it’s nothing to write home about. If a reader wants action and adventure, there are novels which deliver much more satisfying results on that front. However, the action-adventure plot does work as a frame to hang the satirical parts of this novel.
On the asexual content scale (1 = least asexual content, 10 = most asexual content) this novel gets a … zero.
This is just the first book in a series, and Lucy Mihajlich has said that the protagonist will realize that she is asexual in the third book. Fair enough. I admit that I was hoping that there would be serious hints of her asexuality even in this first book. That said, I think it’s fine that a series featuring an asexual protagonist is NOT beating the readers over the head with it from the very beginning.
One could argue even this book has asexual/aromantic representation by absence, in that the female protagonist never displays any sexual or romantic interest in anybody, which it unusual in YA (especially for female characters). I do not consider this or word of ace alone enough to earn any points on the asexuality content scale (hence the zero), but it is definitely more ace-reader (and aro-reader) friendly than, well, a lot of other fiction.
Was this written by an asexual?
Yes, Lucy Mihajlich is asexual.
Hey Sara, do you like this novel?
You know, when I wrote the first draft of this review, I said ‘no, I don’t like this novel, it’s not my cup of tea’. But in the process of writing and revising this review and thinking more about the novel, I changed my mind. I think I do like it after all.