[I received a copy of this book through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.]
Good premise here—a future where, as soon as people turn 15, they are charged for every word they say, and other forms of communication such as many gestures. Pretty much a legal nightmare, in which lawyers have all the power, where people can slap each other with instant lawsuits, and where everything is monitored through cuffs and eye implants, all connected to the ever present Wi-Fi.
In general, I enjoyed reading about this world, for all its chilling technology that may not be far off the corner (such as the Black Mirror-esque “Blocking” tech, preventing people from seeing specific faces, for instance). It was a little hard to follow at times, but it nevertheless made it for a quite unique setting.
I had more trouble with the characters, unfortunately. Speth, especially, struck me as overall rather dumb.While her silence stemmed from a shocking event, it became apparent very quickly that there would be a price to pay—in many ways, literally, as her family gets slapped with lawsuits, her sister is prevented from working, and so on. Yet it took her an extraordinary long while to finally figure out what to do about it all, instead of remaining mute and passive for most of the story. Not passive as in not going out and not doing anything at all, but passive when it came to thinking hard and making decisions about her silence… which, in the meantime, led to several problematic events, one of those being so scarring that I can’t reconcile the shock of it with someone standing her ground for… no reason? Had she been truly convinced of her role, of the importance of her silence, and trying to achieve something meaningful, this sacrifice could’ve been somewhat “understandable”, plot-wise; the way she still behaved at that point (some 60-65% in…), it just made for cruel and unneeded scene.
As another example, one of the characters, at some point, tries to communicate with her in creative ways, pointing at words in a book, and she does… nothing? There was no mention anywhere of people being unable to read, and she can read the warnings on her cuff well enough, so, I don’t know, perhaps pointing at specific words and letting the other character do the math would’ve helped her communicate, and been the smart thing to do. Because the deep issue here is that she doesn’t communicate. At all. She can afford a few shrugs, but conveying everything through just that and glances is, in general, quite difficult, and this leads to exactly the kind of plot twist I mentioned above, because she can only make other people follow her while racking their brains to try and understand what exactly she’s trying to do.
And so, Speth keeps making one poor decision after the other. And when she finally wakes up, there’s been so much destruction in her wake that it’s difficult to suddenly empathise with her.
(Interestingly enough, throughout the whole story, sign language is never mentioned. Are there no hard-hearing/deaf people in this world? Was it banned, as subsversive communication method? Or is it charged, like nodding one’s head. This would’ve made for a formidable loophole.)
As far as characters go, at least I did enjoy the three Product Placers. Although they weren’t too developed, they and their missions were interesting and fun to read about.
Conclusion: Interesting setting, stupid main character. I do have an ARC of the second book, though, so I’ll still give it a chance.
DNFed at page 43.
First, let me talk about the writing style. Nobody is given a name right off. They are known by their occupations: biographer, mender, daughter, etc. And that is how they are constantly referred to. In its efforts to be edgy and unique, it is bizarre and hard to follow. The writing goes from straight forward to flowery and almost high. The chapters are interspersed with excerpts from a book the biographer was writing about a 160 year old female explorer, and they seemed to have nothing to do with the book itself. Unless they were so deep in meaning I couldn't grasp them.
The background history is that the U.S. got a whacko president that enacted the Personhood Amendment, which means a fetus (or even just the initial cluster of cells) has rights from conception. Invitro is outlawed because a fetus cannot concent to implantation. Abortionists can be charged with second degree murder, and anyone wanting one can be charged with conspiracy. There is also the "Every Child Needs Two" act, which means nobody can adopt unless they are in a marriage. Single parent adoption is illegal.
That sounds unique, right? (And a little scary, given the way some uber-Republicans are acting). But I take issue with the whole concept of the Personhood Amendment. If it's all about a fetus' rights, then it sort of defeats itself. A fetus cannot even concent to birth, so unless the clump of mindless cells stays just that way, it is a moot point. What if the baby didn't want to be born but was anyway? We could even go so far as to say the soul didn't want to be conceived. It's a slippery, ridiculous slope.
And the illegal adoption stuff is also stupid. We have far too many children in foster care for me to ever halfway believe this would come to fruition. This book seems to want me to believe every Democrat and Independent in the country suddenly disappeared and we also gave up our constitutional rights to autonomy.
This books wants so badly to be different and fancy, but it's putting lipstick on a pig. It's a hot mess. None of the characters were likeable. The writing was like a tangled Christmas light strand. It's some sort of feminist wannabe. I love feminism. I hate this book.
Shitty writing + very unbelievable plot = resale pile
[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]
I admit I skim-read the last 25%; I tried to read more carefully, but at this point, either I skimmed or I DNFed, and I don’t like DNFing.
It is not without good ideas and potential, and it delivers good criticism of a society based on money: in this case, money literally defines your weight in the world, since the poorest people are tiny and get squished by just about anything and anyone, while the richest ones are so big that they tower over everyone and take a lot of space. The plight of the characters, too—the way they have to fight, the desperate schemes they come up with, are (unfortunately, realistically) close to reality, in that when you don’t have much, no matter how you try, your attempts are conditioned by the little means you have. (I do agree that “you have to make efforts to achieve your dreams”, but let’s be honest, it’s very easy to give lessons about how you managed to buy the house of your dreams when you got a nifty inheritance from your grandparents. Prayer’s plan to find herself a husband, as harebrained as it is, does reflect a desperate attempt at doing something with nothing.)
However, I couldn’t really connect with the characters, nor get into the writing style, which tends to combine words together. I get it, I get why it’s done, but for me, it’s jarring (took me a bit of time to realise that the “munmun” of the title is money, although that was because I wasn’t pronouncing it, only reading it at first). It’s like all those cutesy words like ‘preloved’ and ‘choccy’ and all that stuff which, for some reason, is considered as witty, but just falls flat as far as I’m concerned. After a while, I lose interest.
More like 1.5 stars for me, however, I do acknowledge that there are good ideas in here.