It’s 2051; a young woman named Marlow, is frantically running away from something, finally taking shelter in an apartment labelled 6D, where, to her surprise, she finds an envelope addressed to herself. The chapter ends with a cliffhanger and before we find out more about Marlow and what happens to her, the book cuts off to the year 2015, where we are introduced to roommates Orla & Floss, living in New York City, in apartment 6D. They are both stuck at dead end jobs but aspire to make it big in life. Orla dreams of becoming a bestselling author and Floss wants to be celebrity famous.
There’s absolutely nothing tying the first chapter to the next, making it slightly confusing in the beginning. It did make me question my choice of book and took some effort to keep going to get a sense of where the story was headed. But I’m glad I stuck it out till the end for it was an enjoyable and thought provoking read, with a theme that’s very relevant in this fast paced world. It’s a book that warns us against the dangers of social media, a concept which is nothing new. But what makes this book different and exciting is that it is set in a dystopian future; where in a faraway village in California, called The Constellation, a government controlled network has taped citizens to their ‘devices’ where bots perform most of the tasks, technology is at its peak and AI has become a normal, regular feature. People don’t think for themselves anymore. The devices prompt them to act/talk/dress/behave in a certain way and every aspect of their life is scripted, filmed and shared on camera to be aired to millions of followers around the world whose ratings and likes ensure and sustain their survival.
The book is set in two time periods, 2015 and 2051. And between these two time periods, something happens, called the Spill, which gets mentioned at various points in the story, both the past and the future, although what it exactly is, is not revealed until we reach a substantial part of the plot. So there’s a lot of mystery and intrigue surrounding the Spill and that suspense has been built beautifully by the author. So many of the events are just thrown around between chapters and it’s upto the reader to connect the dots and unlock the clues to what happened in the Spill that caused life in the future to pan out the way it did.
Although, much of what is mentioned in the book is set in the distant future, it bears an eerie resemblance to how our society functions today, to the point where some of the chapters had me completely freaked out. It’s an accurate observation of reality shows, celebrity culture, paparazzi behaviour, technology addiction and the I – me – myself attitude that defines the world we’re part of today. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up as described in the book, cause the pace at which we’re functioning, it’s scary how things will shape in the future.
The idea of Constellation as an experimental facility, an artificial world was very well drawn. Megan Angelo has skillfully woven a story around friendship, loyalty, love, self acceptance, ambition, betrayal and pain with a range of characters that felt too real. However, I can’t forgive the author for being too easy on Floss towards the end. I would have liked to see her suffer, to face the karmic retributions of her actions. It was not the ending I had in mind but this seems fine too.
I don’t do a lot of science fictions but this was an unusual yet satisfying reading experience for me. I wonder what amazing story Megan Angelo is gonna whip up next. When the debut itself is a masterpiece, I can’t wait to see what magic she’ll weave in her upcoming books.