A dystopian novel, set in a metro station? What’s not to like? Child by Sebastian de Souza takes place on a Shattered Earth in 2078. For the majority, life is utopian. For some it is hard and brutal. Like most good dystopian novels, Kid: A story from the future is the story of a few. And he’s an absolute cracker.
What is Kid: A story from the future?
First of all, I’m not quite sure what the name of the book is. Is it right Child? or does all the subtitle come with it? On the cover, this is not a subtitle since it appears above the main title. To be honest, that doesn’t matter, although it can be hard to find anything on the book if you just type “child” into the search engines. While I’m talking about the cover, it’s probably worth mentioning that the front of the book has an iPhone shaped hole. I’m a bit of a sucker for original cut blankets, so mark 1 to Child!
Google: Always has our best interests at heart, doesn’t it? Innovate for our good, don’t you? Just like “Perspecta” in the novel. In Child, “Perspecta ”has become everyone’s favorite search engine, ISP entertainment medium, and virtual reality setting. And then law enforcement, government subsidy; anything that really keeps the company running smoothly. Well not really the company because now almost everyone is installed in Perspecta itself. A huge, sprawling VR system that you’ll never need to leave. The more advanced sets take care of power and the other end without users having to leave the game. This transition will begin in the next few years, so watch out!
Beyond that, there are the “Offliners”. A small group of rebels, who live outside of Perpsecta. It’s a collapsing world, a horribly polluted planet, but being outside the system is a kind of freedom. Josh “Kid” Jones lives in an Offliner Colony under Piccadilly Circus in London. Due to the appalling air pollution, the inhabitants of this underground network hardly ever come to the surface, but through the use of breathing apparatus and medication, Josh often goes above the ground.
Here, it looks like an almost deserted London. Almost deserted, as it has a variety of characters, settings, and black market infrastructure. It soon becomes apparent that Perspecta’s owners, Gnosys, have plans for the Offliners, and inevitably they’re not good. When Josh turns on an old iPhone that belonged to his father, he discovers it has an unimaginable connection to the past. A link that could free the Offliners or doom them to disappear from Earth.
Why read Kid: A story from the future?
It is an extremely readable novel. It’s like a dystopian Dickens unfolding in the grubby and dilapidated streets of London. Dickens with quantum entanglement. Without spoiling things too much, Child is also a COVID novel, the first I’ve read to refer to pandemics and lockdown. This fuels the eventual collapse of society. I hope the author De Souza is not a clairvoyant; hard times are ahead, if so.
There are lots of great ideas in Child, as well as a wonderful depiction of a broken London. If you know the city, there is a lot to love about the book even without the history. And what a story. It is, in essence, a mystery. The key being Josh’s father and why he left him the phone.
Although it is over 600 pages, Child won’t take you very long to read. It is divided into easily devourable chapters, each one leaving you wanting more. There are all kinds of threads woven into history, from Dickensian gin palaces to repurposed department stores. Gangs of street children and very intelligent AI. Actresses Megastar and tour of the Houses of Parliament. It’s a riot of the imagination. Oh and there are subway trains, did I mention that? I’m a subway transport geek, so I found the Picadilly Circus setup particularly entertaining.
The book is complete but open, so there is a chance for more “Offliner” novels. I don’t know if the series will continue. In some ways, I would rather not. I have a feeling that such a daring book might be difficult to follow. Nevertheless, where and when it takes place, if Sebastian De Souza were to write another book, I will certainly take it back. Kid: A story from the future is yet another great book, in what turns out to be a stellar year for fiction.
If you enjoyed this review, check out my other reviews, here.