No matter where you sit on the tech divide, you’re bound to squirm at some point in this unsettling, slow-burning thriller.
Set in a near (and uncomfortably familiar) future, society has reached a major turning point. Goaded on by the dreams of a Steve Jobs/Elon Musk-like visionary, a sizable chunk of tech elites and early adapters have moved into the Zeroth Corporation’s Green Valley, a picture-perfect paradise, to live the vida virtual. They leave friends and family behind, sequestering themselves in a 24-7 idyll of a completely plugged-in paradise called the “I,” where your avatar can cavort with unicorns, there’s always an empty seat waiting for you at the world’s most perfect coffee shop, and everything is groovy.
Meanwhile, outside in the “real” world of Stanton, the scrappy little town that surrounds the walled-off Green Valley, people have rebelled against the increasingly invasive juggernaut of technology. They’ve retreated to a simpler, defiantly low-tech era, when pneumatic tubes sent messages back and forth, and Rolodexes were considered cutting edge. In Stanton, even the slightest hint of technology can get you in big trouble.
Unless you’re Lucie Sterling, a police consultant secretly working for Sentinel, a clandestine organization not above using illegal technology themselves (including hidden cameras and electronic tracers) to spy on Green Valley.
But now dead children are turning up in Stanton, bearing evidence of surgically implanted “spinal transponders” that could only have come from one place.
Lucie’s assignment? Infiltrate Green Valley and take a look around, posing as a concerned relative, anxious to visit Kira, the beloved young niece she’s never seen. The twist is that Lucie actually is worried—particularly after she discovers that Kira seems to have disappeared—and back in Stanton more dead children have been found.
There’s some shaky world-building here that may require a few leaps of faith for some, but once Lucie and her cop buddy discover a lawyer possibly involved in dumping the bodies and the human element finally kicks in, the pace picks up. And when Lucie must return to Green Valley once more to confront the ultimate, disturbing truth, all bets are off.
I tell ya, it’s enough to make you put your iPhone down for a min—oh, sorry, I have to get this….