The Thrilling Page-Turner That Will Make You Question Your Morality
An ancient philosophy dilemma reveals how far one woman will go to save her own child
I just finished The Chain by Adrian McKinty. It is a thought-provoking story about an organization that takes advantage of families. Members choose victims to carry on the chain after being victims themselves.
The masterminds behind The Chain take advantage of familial ties to ransom money. The masterminds behind it all convince victims that the chain can never break and no one will catch them. Members of The Chain live in fear because it can always come back for them.
The story includes various themes. These include abuse, fear, mental health, PTSD, cancer, dedication, and love. The main characters have gone through trauma before the events of The Chain even unfold. They have gone through breast cancer and remission, war, divorce, and loss. They would do anything for those they love. Will that love be their downfall?
The Chain starts off at full speed and does not slow down until about halfway through. The first few chapters are honestly surprising to read because of how much of the story is revealed so soon. The premise of The Chain is a unique one that is horrifying to most, especially those with children. A parent’s worst nightmare comes true.
The main character is Rachel Klein. She is a divorced single mom with a thirteen-year-old daughter, Kylie. Rachel has secured a new job as a philosophy professor at a local community college. It will be the first job she has undertaken since her battle with breast cancer, which has been in remission for a year.
Rachel drops off Kylie at the bus stop for school, thinking nothing of the events about to unfold. A couple of strangers pull up at the bus stop and abduct Kylie.
“Number one: you are not the first, and you will certainly not be the last. Number two: remember, it’s not about the money — it’s about The Chain.”
Shortly after the abduction occurs, Rachel gets two calls. The first is a call from an unknown number, the leader of The Chain. The purpose is to instill fear into Rachel. There are two statements that the caller reiterates:
- She is not the first and will not be the last.
- It is not about the money, it is about keeping the chain going.
The second call is from the captors that are holding Kylie. The caller is a woman, and she informs Rachel that she abducted Kylie. The only way Rachel will see her daughter again is if she follows the instructions exactly.
Rachel must first pay a ransom of twenty-five thousand via bitcoin. After that, she must find another person to abduct to keep the chain going. The kidnapper clarifies she is a mother herself whose child was also abducted. If Rachel messes up or goes to the authorities, the caller’s son will also die.
Rachel is now forced into The Chain and has become an accomplice. The chain is an unstoppable and never-ending scheme. It turns every victim into a criminal and while making the leader rich.
Since every victim is now a criminal, going to the authorities is pointless, anyway. Once Kylie is returned, Rachel must make sure the next couple follows the rules exactly. Otherwise, The Chain will come for everyone down the chain. It is an endless cycle.
The Trolley Problem
In philosophy, there is a social dilemma called the trolley problem. Imagine you are riding on a train. In the far off distance, you notice a runaway trolley going down the track towards five people. They do not see or hear it.
You look down and notice a lever that connects to the track. If you pull the lever, the trolley will divert down another set of tracks away from the group. But on that rail, there is one person in the way of the oncoming train that also cannot see or hear it.
So, it comes down to a decision between pulling the lever that leads to the death of one person or five people. But what if that one person is someone you know versus a group of five strangers?
The trolley problem applies to the story in a way that is interesting to me. If you know a kidnapper has your child, do you pay the ransom and help bring countless other people to The Chain? Or do you go to the authorities and sacrifice your child to help stop the chain?
What makes your child more special than another child or someone else? Why should their life be saved while you victimize another family and exploit them?
Why You Should Read It
The Chain points out a serious flaw in humanity. We will do whatever it takes to keep our children and loved-ones safe from harm. But at what point does our own child become more important than another person?
What I found interesting in this story is the author studied philosophy. There are many elements in this story that reflect the author’s background in the philosophy field.
We see strong characters become what they fear the most. Rachel transitions from being a strong, independent cancer survivor to a monster. How does she survive this trauma and what will that experience do to change her?
“They can tell no one that they have gone through the looking glass and into the world where nightmares are real.”
The Chain forces its members into a never-ending cycle of mental health issues and paranoia. Members believe they will never escape and The Chain can come back at any time for them. They can’t ever go to counseling because they can’t tell anyone anything or The Chain will find them and kill them.
The plot is intricately designed with constant anxiety, distress, and twists. We experience all the anxiety and panic Rachel is going through. Everything does not always go as she plans. Rachel goes through many challenges and stressful situations.
Another interesting point is the difference between female protagonists and their male counterparts. It conveys a message that women are strong and detailed. They will go through hell to save their family. And it portrays men as making mistakes and putting lives at risk.
“George Orwell was wrong, she thinks. In the future, it won’t be the state that keeps tabs on everyone by extensive use of surveillance; it will be the people.”
The author touches on how much we share with social media and the effect of doing so. The main way people look for their victims is through social media.
Rachel looks for people by narrowing it down by neighborhood. She looks for people that update their social media often. By doing this, she is able to see their locations and schedules they typically follow. She finds their kids, what activities their kids do, and when the parent picks them up.
The author is conveying that we do not realize that we are keeping surveillance on ourselves. We post our locations, photos of our children and pets, and many other personal details by the minute. Bad people can turn social media against us. The author is warning us to be more careful.
The author provides various thought-provoking moments to ponder on after reading. I enjoyed this story a lot and you will too. It slows down during the last half of the book, but this is when we start to see the side of the masterminds behind The Chain.