24 July 2014

Review: In A Right State - Ben Ellis

It's 2066, and the UK Government is virtually non-existant. Five huge businesses now hold the country in a vice-like grip, controlling everything from what the people are wearing to who is allowed to travel on their roads. Everything is owned by one company or the other and everything is monitored for market research. Duncan has just lost his wife, and he has a secret that he is not willing to share with the corporate world; he has been growing illegal produce. Amy, a Pharmara employee, was friends with Duncan's wife, and once he is found out, she immediately becomes a target. Together, the two of them find themselves hiding from Pharmara, seeking help from people they didn't realise existed and enlisting the help of the daughter of a wealthy businessman, Poppy. Will they ever get away from the corporate world's prying eyes or their lust for power and wealth?

Ellis has created a fascinatingly complex world where no-one is safe from corporate subterfuge, and where anything goes as long as you're the one controlling the information. Our world has grown into one big marketing scheme, dependant on the people to keep buying into the stock, but also not allowing them any alternative. The sheer amount of research and work that has gone into the book is apparent to see, and hurts my head to think about. In fact, that was the one overriding feeling for me; there is so much information here! This is both a good and a bad thing. Bad because sometimes you got a bit bogged down in all the politics and the explanations as to what is happening in the world, particularly in regards to conversations. Good because it has created such an interesting world with a very specific concept based in consumerism.

Ok, I'll be honest. A whole load of this went straight over my head. I got the point about consumerism as well as the huge theme of violation of privacy and about the boundaries that we should have in relation to all of this. However, all of the corporate ideas tended to make my eyes droop a little bit. I'll admit again, I am not big on politics, or corporate warfare, but when I see a dystopian society, I love it no matter what and therefore I love this society. It's like 1984 cranked up several notches and skewed into a futuristic consumers paradise. Oh, and speaking of futuristic, I loves everything about the new ideas we were seeing; electro-magnetic cars, huge wind farms out  into the sea, rising sea levels, GM foods and enormous shopping centres. It is truly an impressive imagined world, and to be honest, it is a scarily realistic imagining, as all of these things are being developed now and could grow to this state.

There was one quite big miss for me, and that was that I never really connected with the characters. To me, they were slightly too far removed from me. I couldn't understand Poppy's motives, I couldn't relate to Duncan and although the girls were easier to get to know, Amy also proved a difficulty for me. The girls were nice and feisty, and I loved the situations that these three got themselves into as well as the whole goose-chase, but for some reason I just couldn't get into their heads properly. It might have been something to do with all that consumer culture getting into my head.

So if you like reading about hardcore subjects such as politics, subterfuge and consumer culture, as well as wanting a little bit of action in the form of hiding from people with too much power, and if you want a scarily realistic futuristic setting, this is certainly the book for you. Please don't read it if you have the attention span of a Goldfish; you will miss something, and you may not get to the end. Speaking of the end, it surprised me a great deal. Although some parts went as expected, there were quite a few occurrences that really were interesting. The pacing really picks up here, and with a slight blip nearing the end, we get a whole lot of unexpected situations. I loved it and although it set me hanging on a slight cliff-edge, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

A good read, steadily paced, with enough action to keep your attention and enough interest even for people who are exceptionally intelligent in their reading habits (I am not one of them, but I do try to be). It really is a book that enables you to think about the pressing matters in the world, instead of what is only on your doorstep.


Thank you to Ben Ellis, who kindly gifted me a review copy. This has not affected my rating of this book. PS: I had to laugh at the cover; which depicts a particularly amusing point in the plot.

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