November 05, 2012

Monday Review: MOMENTUM by Saci Lloyd

Reader Gut Reaction: Saci Lloyd wrote the thought-provoking, fast-paced, near-future dystopian Carbon Diaries novels (reviewed here and here), and I enjoyed those, so I was intrigued to read this one—also a near-future dystopian, also very concerned with dwindling resources and an ever-growing gap between those who have and those who don't.

How British authors portray the class system is always very interesting to me, partly because in the U.S. we like to pretend we don't have one. But, fair enough, the class system in the UK is in many ways a more entrenched institution than ours. Momentum takes place in a future London where the class system has apparently become very simple: either you're a Citizen, and you have your personal technology devices and your life of relative privilege, or you're an Outsider, living under constant oppression by the government's Kossak officers (essentially military police) and struggling to make do in the favelas, or slums. But the Outsiders have something the Citizens don't: secret access to their own technology network, the Dreamline, and their own brand of freedom.

Concerning Character: It took me a little while to get absorbed in the story on this one—it's told in a quick, flashing, cinematic style, with lots of action and setting-related detail and not a lot of cerebral or character stuff. But once we really get to know the protagonist, Hunter, it started to pick up for me. Hunter is a Citizen, but when we meet him, he's basically practicing his parkour out in the favelas. He's got a yearning for a type of freedom that Citizens don't quite have in their safe little lives, a freedom that he only pretends at in his virtual reality games.

Searching for that freedom, though, has its cost and its reward: he witnesses the horrible death of an Outsider kid at the hands of the Kossaks, giving him a new perspective on how society really works in the real world. In the process, he meets Uma, an Outsider girl with whom he quickly becomes entangled. Hunter has a conscience, and he's a good guy, and of course both he and Uma end up teaching each other a lot about their respective worlds. In the end, though, as you'd expect, Hunter learns some painful lessons about the world he lives in, and has to choose sides in a conflict that goes deeper than he can imagine.

Recommended for Fans Of...: High-action sci-fi techno-thrillers, like For the Win by Cory Doctorow (reviewed here), Brain Jack by Brian Falkner (reviewed here), or Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis Gill (reviewed here). Also, books about the London underworld, like Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (reviewed here).

Themes & Things: I've covered most of the major themes already—the meaning of freedom, the dynamics between the haves and the have-nots in society, the consequences of unchecked industrial-technological growth on people and the environment. But the character interactions bring forth a number of other threads as well: truth, loyalty, friendship, and the complexity of right and wrong.

Review Copy Source: Library.

You can find Momentum by Saci Lloyd online, or at an independent bookstore near you!


LinWash said...

I'm glad you reminded me of Carbon Diaries, because some classmates recommended that book months ago, and I totally forgot about it. I promptly put Momentum on my wish list, because the premise sounds fascinating.

aquafortis said...

It is a great premise! And I enjoyed the book, although it did take a couple of chapters to get into, for me. It really does read like an action movie. :)