C.J. West has written a frightening book. Not a scary book, not a ‘lock your doors and windows, turn on all the lights and hide under the covers’ book, a frightening book. Frightening in a 1984, George Orwellian “Big Brother” knows what you are thinking way. A look into a world where our civil liberties have been more or less eradicated and paranoia dictates our actions.
The protagonist, Michael O’Connor, is a criminal on his way to serve a 5 year sentence when he is shot and ends up in a coma for 4 years. When he comes out of the coma, instead of serving out the remainder of his sentence, he is thrown into an ultramodern criminal justice system, that he has no idea what is happening and what is expected of him.
There a no longer any prisons, criminals now enter reeducation programs and are called relearners. With ankle bracelets and sensors everywhere, they are able to live freely in the community. But as Michael learns, they are not really free. Their every movement is tracked and Michael becomes paranoid, thinking they are all out to get him. All the right that he had before are gone. There are no rights for relearners.
Michael comes to realize that he is fighting for his life. With no prisons to send relearners who don’t re-learn and become law abiding citizens, there is only one punishment left. With no clear guidelines on what to do, Michael has to do what he thinks is right and hope he made the right decision.
C.J. West has done an excellent job of creating a world without rights and civil liberties. In the way that 1984 was a “what if” book, this is also a great “what if” book, what if the prisons were eliminated? How would the authorities control the criminals? What if one class of persons lost their civil rights? How would the rest of the world treat them?
This book grabbed me from the first page and as Michael related his life story, kept my interest; at first I didn’t like the end, but looking back, it was the only one that really fit. Anything else would have left me feeling cheated.
I would recommend this book to people who like books that make them think while at the same time be entertaining. There is nothing dry about this book, it can be read for pure pleasures sake.