Author: Ever Dundas
Publisher: Angry Robot Books
- ISBN: 9781915202215
- Published: October 2022
- Pages: 400
- Format reviewed: Paperback
- Review date: 11/10/2022
- Language: English
Typography has a larger role in your life than you may think. It is important to get the right font in the right place. No one wants to have Beware of the Cliff written in Comic Sans. Advertisers spend millions on typefaces to make a brand instantly recognisable. All these things are noble pursuits, but what about a font that brings you pure bliss when you look at it. In Ever Dundas’ HellSans this titular font brings a high to most people, but for some it brings pure agony, try using that font on a can of pop.
Jane Ward is the CEO of a company that is the sole manufacturer of Inexes, small cyborgs that help humans in everyday life and link directly into your brain. She is rich and powerful, but even she can succumb to an illness that plagues society, HellSans Allergy. This typeface is everywhere as it brings bliss to the population and makes them placid. After a shocking turn of events Ward contracts the allergy and with it her place in society if forfeit, she becomes a dreaded HSA. Only Doctor Icho Smith can help as she is inventing a way of suppressing the disease. However, in this dystopian future those in charge do not want the cure to be made public and will do anything to stop it.
Instantly, you know that you are in for something a little different in Dundas’ book when it is split into parts, and you can read parts one or two in either order. This initial part of the story tells the point of view of the two main characters, Jane and Icho. The characters interact, but these are two separate stories and they draw together at the end of each. Thankfully, it is not a blind retelling of the exact same events.
Both characters are strong, and you get a sense that they have a deeper connection. They are both flawed. Jane is phenomenally successful but has little empathy. She is in no small way to blame for the suppression of the people and ghettoisation of the HSAs. When she finds herself in trouble, the rules she helped enforce are her undoing. Icho’s faults are less stark, but there is a naivety that undermines her. Her dabbling in a cure has drawn the interest of important and violent people.
In the final act the characters come together as do the threads of the story. We also get to witness how Jane and Icho interact. The book becomes a strong relationship drama alongside the dystopia and thriller elements. Dundas is not finished with the interesting twists on narrative as the reader starts to realise that what they have already read may not be all that it seems. This was a very clever way of manipulating the story and reader. It is no gimmick and directly plays into how the characters are feeling and how the book concludes, both of which are highly satisfying.
Dundas creates a grim dystopia that you can believe may occur should the technology be invented. There are several layers or technology and politics that are all working together to create this unique recipe of messed up. Having the flawed Jane as a main character is perfect for this world, is it, and in turn her, worth saving? With its unpredictable structure, HellSans could have been a confusing read, but Dundas grounds the story with great world building and strong character development. A great thriller for fans of dystopian worlds.
Written on 11th October 2022 by Sam Tyler .