Monday, February 24, 2014
Reader's Review: "Domechild", by Shiv Ramdas
Publisher's blurb: (from goodreads.com)
A suicidal machine. A child with a secret that can change the world. The man trapped between them. In the City, where machines take care of everything, lives Albert, an ordinary citizen with an extraordinary problem: Hes being blackmailed into becoming the first person in living memory to actually do something.
What begins as a chance encounter with an outlaw child swiftly spirals out of control as Albert is trapped between the authorities and the demands of his unusual blackmailer. Forced to go on the run for his life, he finds himself in a shadow world of cyber-junkies, radicals and rebels, where he discovers the horrifying truth behind the City, a truth that will make him question everything he has ever known.
To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. It started out blandly enough, introducing Albert in his comfortable, predictable little world within a dome, policed and monitored by robots who ensured that each citizen had the best quality of life and experienced nothing to arouse discomfort or curiosity, and where the only "work" anyone is expected to do is exactly what most people in today's world spend a lot of time doing: interacting via social media.
Welcome to the Dome, the last habitat on Earth, where everything is manufactured and extrapolated and regulated and nothing is left to arbitration or chance, from the food to the pets.
Then Albert missed the bus.
In that one simple event, Domechild became less of a treatise on the immaturity of a society steeped in technology (which it never actually became, I was just worried...) and I found myself promising "Just one more chapter... okay one more... okay, I'll take a break after the next one... Ohmigosh, I have to find out what happens!"
I felt the disorientation of a man whose life suddenly becomes more and more unpredictable as he finds himself thrust into incomprehensible circumstances. I held my breath when the blackmailer initiated contact and issued very real threats of exposure and death unless Albert complied. And I wrestled with the endless shock of many revelations all happening at once, just when I least expected it to.
I never wanted it to end--but even books have their limits. Ramdas' cast of characters are wonderful in their individuality: brusque June, innocent Albert, rough-and-tumble Theo, volatile Marcus, explosive Ucho, shrewish Mrs. D'Amato, devious Vail.... and the inimitable SUE, with an agenda all her own. I made friends with these characters--and enemies.
In his book "Farenheit 451," Ray Bradbury observed, "Good writers touch life often." This is exceptionally true with my experience of "Domechild." While we might be a comfortable distance from dividing ourselves into Factions or Districts--a world where automation and technology are as essential as the very air we breathe, and the medium for every interaction we make, just might be closer than we are willing to acknowledge. From the descriptions of the well-intended "Intelligence Interface" for easier cyber-access (and subsequent consequences of experiencing such ease), to the death wish of a machine that has learned that a life that willingly forfeits the capacity to choose is no life at all--to the very real dangers of allowing another person to speak and arouse emotions without thinking for oneself of the true message behind the words, not just the feelings, everything about this book prompts the readers to consider the world in which they live, and their unique part in it. This is what all books should do. I give it 5 stars out of 5, and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone!
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