It’s the year 2035, a decade after a series of cataclysmic environmental events led to the breakdown of society and its resurrection by a global corporate/political force called “The Autonomy.” The Autonomy’s elite upper class rule with an iron fist, keeping the masses starving and working 14 hour factory shifts until their bodies become deformed. Everyone is forced to wear government-issued “iNet” glasses which supply mind-numbing entertainment and access to “The Faith,” the government-sponsored religion, while having their locations and activities monitored.
Deep in the sewers of the world’s wealthiest city, a rebellion is brewing. One girl with special abilities becomes the target of the Autonomy and the revolutionaries alike. Meanwhile, twin brothers are torn in different directions, one to help the government and avenge their father’s death, the other to escape his mundane troubles and protect the remarkable girl at all costs.
Compelling and wide in scope, Jude Houghton’s narrative ricochets through each character’s point of view, creating a quick pace that holds the reader’s interest, though some characters are definitely more interesting than others. Generally, the characters are refreshingly complex – no one is all good or all bad. This creates tension and nuance as they interact and the climax builds. While there are some familiar dystopian story tropes in Autonomy, Houghton’s future world is elaborately constructed and innovative.
Be advised, some of these details, including descriptions of rape, infants kept in factory farm-like conditions, and the reanimation of aborted fetuses aren’t for the faint of heart, and are at times unnecessarily grotesque.