The first-person present-tense style of the book gives it the immediacy of a movie. The voice of the young narrator is honest and realistic and builds empathy quickly. The characters are drawn strongly enough to allow you to care what happens to them. The pace is fast. The prose is uncluttered. All of which means that the horror of the underlying idea emerges as a clear, grim, inescapable reality.
This could easily have degenerated into a shoot-em-up video-game of a book, instead, by making the death and the violence real rather than glamorous, it becomes a book about the abuse of power, the nature of courage and the need to deal with what is in front of you without betraying yourself or those you love.
I read this book in three days. If real-life hadn’t kept getting in the way, I would have read it in less. What kept me turning the pages wasn’t the desire to solve some clever rules-of-robotics puzzle, but the need to know what happened to the people. This book made me cry for the people in it. It made me angry at the exploitation and abuse of the powerless by the powerful. It made me think about how plausible the story is and how we sometimes fail to realize the scale of the atrocities we silently endorse.
This book struck me as a manifesto for fundamental human rights: not to be enslaved, not to be hungry, not to be subject to violence from your own state. It made me realize that “Reality TV” is a social engineering tool that takes us further and further from reality and contributes to a level of noise and moral indifference that leaves us feeling powerless to change the world.
Read this book. You won’t regret it.
Oh, and when you buy it, buy the next two at the same time, you’ll save yourself a trip back to the bookstore. You are going to want to move straight on from one book to the next.