Title: Red Queen (The Substrate Wars #1)
Author: Jeb Kinnison
2014 – Fiction – Science Fiction/Dystopian
The Story: After a terrorist group detonates a bomb that takes out most of Manhattan and sends radiation even farther out, the United States descends into chaos. To rectify the situation, personal freedoms are taken away and a new Unity party takes the reins of government. It becomes dangerous for anyone to think for himself, at the risk of offending someone else (equality for all!) or going against one of the new government’s laws. But on one college campus, after a professor is taken away for questioning, Justin and his friends make a breakthrough discovery in quantum physics that will allow them to fight back against the government.
The Opening Line: Just before midnight Saturday in the Coast Guard’s Vessel Traffic Service watch room for New York Harbor, one of the hundreds of vessels being tracked began to deviate from its usual course.
What I Loved: As I was reading, it was scary how accurate some of Kinnison’s statements on society were. Mind you, these were statements about a futuristic society in which personal freedoms are obliterated in the name of security and equality. Still, so much rang true that I am finding myself a little more terrified than I’ve ever been about the state of the society we currently live in and the path it’s taking. Also, I found myself really interested in the technological possibilities that Kinnison laid out in the novel and how they could affect global communications, politics, and war, as well as opening up the possibility of interstellar travel.
What I Didn’t Love: Some (okay, quite a bit) of the tech-speak went completely over my head. This is why I’m a librarian and not a quantum physicist. Although I enjoyed science quite a bit when I was in school, my aptitude lies in the realm of books. So the long discussions between Steve and Justin concerning the operation of the Vortex-5 machine I just didn’t understand. And on an unrelated note, I did notice a minor plot hole in which one character appeared in a scene in which it had already been stated that he would be elsewhere.
Final Thoughts: Although this novel didn’t give me the same feelings of desperation and the frenetic pace that I’ve come to associate with YA books, it did remind me a lot of George Orwell’s 1984, one of my favorite books. The overreach of the government and the constant reminders of surveillance are such timely topics that the novel inspires a real fear of the future. Now, I think I’ll go read something that’ll let me just disengage.