It's a fact that following the explosion of technology we now give away vast amounts of information freely and often unknowingly. Big companies have got smart at figuring out just how best to get such information. Many sell that data on without compunction. Fast forward to the year 2066 and big corporations control every part of people lives - with a constant stream of personal data analysing every little thing they do.
In a Right State is set in such a future, a late 21st century United Kingdom ruled by big business, a country focused on profit and consumerism. This is also a future where the very idea of waste is a criminal one. Renewable energy rules and CO2 emmisions a thing of the past. Food is grown genetically modified by law to produce the least wasteful crops with the most efficient taste and nutrients. This is a future where even the body parts of the deceased are sold off to the highest bidder.
The story begins at such an auction when Duncan's late wife is sold off piece by piece. Ordinarily this wouldn't be an issue however the body hides Duncan's secret, a secret that will get him into a great deal of trouble should anyone find out.
The most striking, most worrying thing about this book is the plausibility, a future vision that is one very small step from reality. Adverts take the place of any form of entertainment and can leap out at you when you are out for a walking, in your home or anywhere else for that matter. This violition of privacy is only one step away from where we are right now. And yet almost everyone accepts this, almost everyone seems prepared to give up our privacy, our data and our very freedom as long as the next gadget, film or show is but one click away.
While this future might have done away with global warming and embraced the concept of recycling it is at the expense of a tightly controlled state where consumers are little more than cattle milked for their money. Freedom is an ideal long forgotten by most.
Luckily the story is told with a great deal of humour and distinctly British humour at that. There are a few times when exposition drags the pace down a little but overall the story moves forward well and the characters respond in realistic manner to the many unexpected turns the story takes. Sarcasm and intelligence combine well with a twisting plot and some great characters set against this dystopian vision.
The result is an impressive read, as delightful as it is disturbing. Ellis treats us to a cautionary tale of consumerism taken down one plausible path that seems likely to happen if we sit back and let it. For many, our country is already in a right state, Ellis shows how it could be a whole lot worse.
Written on Monday 10th November 2014 by Antony.
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