Author(s): Claire North
Release Date: May 22nd 2018
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Claire North, also known under the names of Catherine Webb and Kate Griffin, brings us a brand-new dystopian sci-fi story with 84K. Although I’ve only known her for her huge success upon releasing The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August—which I have yet to read myself—this introduction to her mind has been truly eye-opening. The world she creates in this story comes to life thanks to some of the most meticulous world-building and attention to detail. It easily sucks away any sign of happiness fancied in the near future, and I simply love it for being able to achieve such a result. In 84K, readers are bound to be shaken up by the ideas explored with razor-sharp rigor, but also by the hauntingly mesmerizing writing style that Claire North utilizes to mold her story.
What is 84K about? This is the story of Theo Miller, an employee of the Criminal Audit Office. His job is to assess every offense that is put onto his desk and make sure that every criminal in question pays his debt to society. Debt as in time in community service? Time in prison? Capital punishment? No. In this world, each crime has a value and once those indemnities are dealt with, as in payed in full, the criminal is free of any charge against him. While Theo Miller lives his life trying to stay as irrelevant as possible to society, a figure from his past suddenly emerges from the dirty corners of his memory and flips his life upside down by dragging a past he has always tried to detach himself from back into his reality.
In this world, human rights are abolished and the rich reign with countless privileges under their belts thanks to their very deep pockets. Imagine a place where those who have the money can get away with anything, including murder. Anyone who is unable to pay their debt are however sent down to the “patty line” which essentially comes down human slavery. This whole premise alone strips this world down to an extreme form of capitalism and hammers in a whole new array of values and priorities in individuals. The story in essence explores humankind’s one true treasure in the most cautious and subliminal way possible: choice.
While Claire North blankets her world in an eerie and depressive coat, she repeatedly assaults the readers attention by playing around with the writing and the timeline. This is not a linear story whatsoever. It is fragmented into multiple timelines and sometimes a same chapter can contain two different events and invite readers on a transcendent experience through the mind of Theo Miller. The writing style also contributes highly to the experience by playing around with the formatting and the sentence structure. Certain sections are pervaded with page breaks that messes around with the formatting, while sentences are sometimes cut short and free of punctuation or capitalization. These moments are often dealt in rapid-fire and quickly grows on you. In fact, you’ll find yourself accustomed to it and identify it as part of this story’s signature; it easily compels you to enjoy this story not only as a simple reader of words, but as an analyst trying to piece the events together.
Claire North’s latest novel is a truly original and cleverly-crafted piece of literature. Its take on capitalism is astounding and effortlessly stimulates the reader’s critical thinking. There are moments in this story where it pauses to reflect upon society in such a convincing tone that you can’t help but reflect for a second on the role of money, the value we attach to it and the structure of the society we live in. Just look at how much importance we accord to money and how society is built upon one business’ success after another. 84K is not an easy story to read, but it a sublimely scary dystopia that should be sought by readers.
MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★★☆
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Till next time,