CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 18. . . .May 2, 2008
Calgary, AB: Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2008.
220 pp., pbk., $15.95.
Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Ronald Hore.
"This is Jemma7729, stable class," he said to the audience. "Don't let this good appearance fool you, people. She is aggressive and clever. Despite the fact that she has had every advantage," and he turned to me, his voice dripping with venom, "she has been a disciplinary problem since she was five years old."
He came to stand beside me. Tears stung behind my eyes. "She's a disgrace to her sex! Two incidents of hitting already." The audience responded with gasps and whispers, and the tension in the room went up a notch. I glanced at him then looked at my feet. He addressed the crowd again, "She wouldn't confirm her first choosing. She obviously feels she is superior to other girls of her class."
"No! I don't. It's just that – I want to do something else with my life."
The room crackled with tension. He turned his head slowly, like some sort of reptile. "And what would that be, Jemma7729?"
Trapped! "I – I don't know."
There was a brief silence, then he laughed and the audience did too.
A whisper from beyond the lights made my skin crawl. "Delete her," said a voice at the edge of my hearing."
Jemma7729 is a science fiction novel that takes place in the near future after civil unrest has brought an authoritarian government into being. Women are accused of most of the problems leading to the unrest, and so they are now considered second-class citizens, both protected and restrained. The Administrative Government of North America, the AGNA, rules with an iron hand: everything is regulated, people are divided by class, live in domed megacities, and told the countryside beyond the domes is toxic.
The protagonist of the story is Jemma7729, a girl of age five when the tale begins. She belongs to one of the "privileged" classes where the women are considered "stable." Her father is Regional Administrator for the Environment for the L.A. Basin; her mother is a model wife who holds spy-parties where she can gather information on her guests to pass along to the authorities. Jemma7729 has a rebellious streak and a zest for living that is frowned on.
When she turns seven, Jemma7729 must make a career choice on her official Choosing Day. She has the options of: Wife, Fiction Writer, Facilities designer/Interior designer, Corporate assistant, Listener, Museum worker. But Jemma7729 has been exposed to life beyond the authorized view, and she wants none of these. This situation brings her into conflict with the AGNA who have the power to alter her independent mind into a smiling zombie-state or delete her completely. Jemma7729 escapes into the country and becomes plain "Jemma" who is, in the eyes of the government, a terrorist, but in the eyes of many rebellious people, a heroine. If she is caught, the penalty is permanent deletion.
The story traces her growth, from an angry child to a mature young woman, still fighting against authority for her rights and the rights of others, especially on behalf of the suppressed women. The book is described by one writer as a "feminist dystopian novel." Well-written and thoughtful, the novel describes a brutal world we would today consider gone slightly-mad.
Ronald Hore, involved with writer's groups and workshops for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.
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