You don’t need to imagine a science fiction future where information is such a valuable resource that it has to be encrypted to move it safely between A and B, as that’s what we have now. You also don’t need to imagine that corporate espionage and hackers might be after their rivals’ trade secrets and will go to any lengths to get them. However, in a world where all communications channels can be intercepted and there are infrastructure blackspots that cables won’t provide a service to, the science fiction next step is a city where a service exists to transport information encrypted and injected into people, athletic and smart couriers.
To set a context, the city the author has based the action is an urban dystopia. There’s a class system which builds a lot of resentment (reminds me of the film Demolition Man) and the people are all trapped for generations with their overcrowding, jealousies, tech-crime and self-interested governors because the outside world has a climate so poor that planet Earth itself is being terraformed to bring itself back to Earth-like habitation standards. The other area of separation is technological, with the majority of the population of the domed bio-refugium (one of several domed cities) having implanted upgrades and those who have not simply putting up with their lack of access to services, jobs and information.
There’s a Logan’s Run feel to this story. Most people seem to be in their 20s and 30s, all feel trapped and look forward to the day they can get away and there’s a hint that something more is going on behind the scenes and that the authorities are keeping important facts from the public. Certainly it’s in the interests of the system to keep everyone inside the dome because the whole control, system relies on the population not being able to walk away. Why would it be in the rulers’ interests to work toward making that possible, just because it’s what everyone expects?
Having a job where people mess with your blood is a pretty disgusting idea, so there would have to be a pretty good reason why you would consent to do something like that. You’d think it would be money but a different reason is supplied in convincing style, then there’s a sort of induction phase followed by the meat of the adventure. Essentially, the characters go through a series of parkour chases through a large, commuter-filled city, switching routes, losing tails and trying to move fast but stay inconspicuous. The story covers this really well and provides some hair-raising chase sequences that are really enjoyable to read.
Of course, inevitably, the protagonist gets involved in an assignment that nudges her out of her depth and then just about every interested party seems to be hunting her down as a renegade. Run rabbit, run rabbit, run run run.
The science fiction angle is there but not too heavy, so this is more of an exciting hunt and chase adventure with a sinister plot that needs to be exposed or it’ll drive the reader cray trying to guess what it could be. The story-telling skill of this author is pretty good, so you become unaware of the narrator and fall into the scene, almost flexing your legs and tying up your running shoes in case it’s you next. There’s also the dream fantasy of leaving your whole life behind, going incognito and then being the heroine, fit, fast and the girl everyone wants to catch, deciding who she’s going to allow to catch her.
It’s a smashing adventure, slightly squirmy with the blood encryption thing but even so I thought it was a wild ride, super fun, just crazy enough to be credible and an idea that could easily transfer to film someday. They say that when you do sports you get a rush of endorphins. Well, this book gives you that same feeling and you never even have to roll out from under the comfy pillow pile.