On a lark, I picked up a book at the library recently. I wasn’t really looking for fiction to read because I have a stack of nonfiction by the bed to get through and I’ve read quite a bit of fiction in the past year. But, after reading the cover and opening description of 84K by Claire North, I realized a dystopian novel was just what I needed.
If you want a book that describes the mood of the day, this book is fabulous. It is well written and difficult to predict where it will end up. I wasn’t sure whether it would end in a good or bad way for the main character, a man named Theo Miller whose original name was not Theo Miller.
Theo is an auditor. He has to assign monetary values to crimes. Rather than send people to prison for their crimes, they are required to pay for them. And if they can’t pay, they have to work them off doing god-awful work for the Company (yes, capital C – Company), which owns the government. The Company is naturally driven by the profit motive, so it doesn’t give a shit about human capital. Everyone is expendable, except the super wealthy, who can buy their way out of committing crimes.
Does this sound vaguely familiar to you given the current state of our government and the economy?
Here’s a paragraph from page 295 of the book that sums up what has happened to the British government in the book:
If we are not careful … if we don’t fight tooth and nail against it … this is what will happen to the government in the United States. You hear it in the drumbeat of privatizing prisons, education and military housing, refusing to look at Universal Healthcare because we have to let companies selling health insurance make a profit, the monopolization of large tech corporations (Google, Amazon, Facebook), the market cornering by a handful of large cable and internet service providers such that cities can’t even put in municipal broadband. Heck, it’s in a Supreme Court decision, Citizens United, which allows corporations to spend money freely in elections as though corporations are individuals with free speech rights. Because they have loads of money, corporations actually end up with more free speech than individuals do and they have a choke hold on our politicians so they consistently create policy in favor of corporations over individual citizens. Capitalism has become God in the U.S. of A.
Claire North does a magnificent job of capturing a world that is not so very different from ours on the surface. It’s been skewed just enough from what we are currently experiencing that it is easy to imagine our own world easily traveling this path. And that’s downright scary.
If you’re looking for a dystopian novel, give this one a try.
I, for one, am going to look for Claire North’s other books.