Proxy

Proxy by Alex London reminds me of when little kids who do something bad say, “It wasn’t me” as if parents will be fooled and punish that ‘other person’ who supposedly did the bad deed.   In the world of Proxy that is what basically happens.  After the Earth has been devastated by natural disasters and is now largely wasteland.  The cities that have survived are controlled by corporations, and there is an even sharper divide between the people with money, the 1%, and the rest of the population than there is today. 

The wealthy live in the Upper City and the current generation of rich kids get their kicks from raves designer drugs or biopatches, plastic surgery type enhancements, etc.  while children in the lower city struggle to simply survive by any means necessary…child labor, stealing, gangs, etc.

Unlike most post-apocalyptic novels, there is still plenty of modern technology available. Everyone has a biofeed which streams advos, specific marketing ads targeted to the individual, robots perform a variety of services and people use a variety of devices to access the constant datastream.  The technology and vacousness of the rich kids reminded me a bit of the Uglies series by  Scott Westerfeld.

The kids in the slums live off credit that adds to their debt.  Getting medical care costs credits, going to school costs credits, and the amount of credits is so high that the older poor in their 70’s are still in debt from medical care they had as children.  Some orphans who were rescued from the outer wastelands are forced to sign contracts to be proxies before they realize the implications.  A proxy is a poor child who is held responsible for the transgressions of their patrons.

Syd is one very unlucky Proxy.  His patron is spoiled rich kid and daredevil Knox.  As a young kid he broke a very valuable item and Syd was punished by an EMD which is the future equivalent of getting tasered.  Patrons watch a hologram of their proxies getting punished and that first time Alex cried as much as Syd did.  However, through the years he continued to misbehave and break rules and became immune to feeling guilt for the consequences of his actions.  In the meantime, Syd continues to get electric zaps, perform backbreaking manual labor and other acts to make up for the sins of Alex. 

At the beginning of the story Syd has only two more years left on his proxy contract and then he will be free, well as free as living in the dangerous slums living a hardscrabble life can be.   Then Alex commits an act so heinous that Syd will pay a terrible price and the lives of both boys will change forever in ways neither one could have ever forseen.

I really liked the fresh concept of this book, it’s one I have not seen done before in any variation within this genre.    I also enjoyed the way it extrapolated issues from our own time such as credit and debt, income inequality, advancing technologies, marketing databases, global warming consequences, admiration of Kardashian types, etc. and projects them out into a future world.  That said, I thought there could have been better character development, things leaned toward stereotypes, and while there was the action expected in this genre the build up of tension was not as masterful as in other books I have read.

 

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In The After

People have often accused me of, “sneaking up on them.”  I learned as a child to move more quietly than most people, as that skill was useful to me – turns out that it could be an even more valuable skill than I thought.  In fact, in the book  In The After by Demetria Lunetta it is a survival skill of great value.

When aliens with poor eyesight who find their prey, humans, mostly by sound land in the U.S., Amy learns that the way to stay alive is to learn how to be more silent than death.  Amy got lucky, on a day where millions were killed she happened to be at home watching TV.  Because Amy grew up with an activist environmental father who installed solar panels, a rainwater system and a rooftop garden, she has some advantages that help her to continue to survive. Her scientist mother worked for the government and thus was very security conscious, so Amy’s house has a powerful electric fence, which is what keeps the monsters from her door, though she learns quickly to live silently in case the fence ever fails. 

Eventually Amy has to venture out to scavenge for food and supplies where she learns more about how to avoid becoming meat for the alien predators.  On one such shopping foray she finds a toddler alone in a store.  Having developed a strong survival instinct, Amy considers leaving the child there, but when she observes how quiet and smart the child is, she gives into an overwhelming need to bring the baby back to her home for companionship and to create a new family for herself since her parents never returned.  She calls the child Baby and teaches her sign language so they can communicate without attracting the notice of the aliens.  She also teaches Baby how to survive and how to scavenge.  It’s when they are out on a scavenge mission that the meet Amber, another female teen survivor whom Baby instantly grows attached to and against her better judgment they bring Amber home with them. Amber is not only the type of girl Amy was never friends with before the world fell apart, but she is loud and unskilled in how to survive.  One day when Amber insists on coming along on a mission, her shallowness creates a situation that attracts an alien almost killing Amy before a ship snatches the creature up.  After the three return home Amber leaves and men arrive at the house to disable the fence.  Amy understands that Amber has betrayed her and Baby and they must leave in order to survive.  While living outside, the pair are picked up by a ship which takes them to a compound of survivors. 

Finally in a safe area surrounded by other people after years of isolation Amy finds unexpected joy.  However, some of the leaders of the compound take an unusual interest in Baby and Amy begins to have doubts about whether everything is really back to normal for them.   

 

 

The Hunt

The Hunt series by Andrew Fukuda is no Twilight, and I mean that as a great compliment. No disrespect to Stephanie Meyer but the difference between the Twilight series and this is like the difference between a work of classic literature and a paperback beach novel. The latter can be an entertaining read, but the former elevates the concept of vampires into an epic piece of literature. In the Twilight series the vampires are good looking, romantic and even sensitive. In The Hunt they drool and clack their teeth in a horrifying way when they think prey is near.

Prey would be people who are dehumanizingly referred to as hefers. In the world of Gene, a virus has turned most of the population into vampires who have to survive on synthetic or animal meat as they have hunted the humans almost into extinction, to find a live one and consume it is the equivalent of a heroin addict getting a fix.

In most apocalyptic or dystopian books tension is achieved by the characters reacting to the situation, in the case of Gene an exquisite tension is built because he cannot react. Gene’s mother and sister were killed by vampires when he was a young boy and his father was bitten and ran into the sunlight rather then turn vampire not many years later. Gene has been left all alone to survive in a world surrounded by vampires. He was taught the rules by his father. Don’t laugh or draw attention to yourself, and don’t sweat and let them smell you. He has to follow a very complicated grooming ritual everyday to hide what he really is. He has to sit in a classroom every day surrounded by killers. He has to suppress all the things that make him human in order to survive. Most of all he has to survive the loneliness of being one of the last of his kind.

Then in a twisted turn on the Games in The Hunger Games, Gene holds the winning lottery ticket to participate in the Hunt. Only in this book, he is the Hunter not the Hunted. Once a year to raise morale in the kingdom, lucky lottery winners are selected to participate in an event to hunt some of the few remaining hefers. Gene tries everything to not participate as those selected will all be bunking down together where he cannot keep up the charade of what he is day and night. He also can’t be part of the Hunt because the physical exertion would cause him to sweat and reveal what he really is. However, physical exertion is not the only thing that might make him sweat, there is his classmate Ashley June, a beautiful redhead and fellow lucky lottery winner.

How Gene will manage these events creates an almost unbearable suspense that will torture readers in the best way.