I don’t review enough of the books I read, and I don’t read enough books in certain genres or categories to really review them. On the Best of 2015 EBR list, I marked BLUESCREEN by Dan Wells as one I was looking forward to. I don’t really read YA as a category (I am neither young, nor an adult, so my wife says), and so I admit some bias, but I like cyberpunk and dystopia, and here we are.
BLUESCREEN by Dan Wells (Amazon) is… well it’s the future. It’s Nancy Drew meets Cyberpunk hackers, with strong ties to the modern day up and coming e-sports phenomenon. An all-star group of female characters from a diverse variety of backgrounds (Hispanic, Indian, Chinese) take front and center in a near-future technological dystopia that would make William Gibson proud.
The core of the story deals with wrong actions for right reasons, drug use, and the advent of technology, advertising and malware in our day to day lives. Marisa (the primary character), is a strong lead, who exists in a narrative rooted in the physical world slums of the future. A future that feels shockingly real to our daily lives. Starbucks, in-your-face personalized ads, constant online presence, and the pressure of existing in two worlds at once are compellingly written by Wells into a flowing story that deals with real-world death, online drugs, and a mystery rooted in very real modern day trends and concerns. Implanted “djinni” keep everyone rooted in the digital world 24/7, and almost all privacy is lost.
The story takes a bit to pick up, but Wells writes at a reasonable pace, that feels like a train building up steam as it barrels towards the end of a line. The characters share screen-time well, but only Marisa feels fully developed, and you see the rest of the cast through her eyes as they pass through her orbit. Marisa’s family situation is one of the best I’ve read on the page in recent memory, with a dynamic that feels drawn from the real world, but adapted to the dramatic world of this novel. Her father, brother, and “family” of friends form a wonderful supporting cast, and a focused picture of the pressure on Marisa.
Regardless of some of the characterization issues, Wells has a terrifying picture of the future that feels far too accurate to be comfortable to the reader.
If BLUESCREEN is an example of this genre as a whole, and the future in front of it, I’m going to be picking up dystopia fiction for a long time. And I’ll be certainly picking up Dan Wells books for a while. He’s got a line of credit with me now.
- Recommended Age: 12+
- Language: Not compared to some of Wells' other work
- Violence: Not really. PG at worst (unless you speak Spanish, and then the author has assured me it can get pretty foul...)
- Sex: Pretty PG here