Dystopia BoyDisclaimer: I consider myself friends with the author, and I received a harcopy version of this novel through a book trade with him.

There’s so much talent packed into this novel that I’m honestly not sure where to begin. It’s a beast of a book that almost drags on too long, but at the end, you realize that it’s all integral to the story. It also features a unique narration style that shouldn’t really work, but drops the reader in seamlessly and never lets go. 

This novel is the life story of a kid who grows as the United States is plunging further and further into religious and economic chaos. Though written in 2014, the only way it could be creepier to read now is if a genuine religious zealot had won the 2016 presidential election. Instead, in today’s era of Trump, it’s all too easy to see how progress could reverse course and our country could end up like Richardson’s representation.

In the massive surveillance state that the country has become, the kid’s story is not narrated by Joe himself, but by the Watcher assigned to research him. Instead, we see Joe’s life through Anders’ eyes and perspective. As the story progresses, these things become more and more entwined, until Anders is just as much a part of Joe’s story and evolution.

The drug use started to feel a bit gratuitous, and I would have preferred that Joe stick with his original allies rather than them getting replaced so close to the end. The pop culture references should have felt overwhelming, but they always stayed just on the side of amusing rather than obnoxious.

Spoiler alert: There’s a giant “To Be Continued” at the end of the book, though what occurs in the text does work as a cohesive story. It is the history of Joe Vagrant up to the current time and how the country came to this way. Even thought it left me wanting more, as a reader, I’m content with the story I did get as a whole.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Currently reading: Bone Key (Supernatural #3) by Keith R.A. DeCandido

Currently writing: 7,436/15k words

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