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August 18, 2018

Zone 23 by CJ Hopkins ~ a Review

by MK French

In a post-apocalyptic world, all dissent and nonconformity have been declared anomalies that need to be genetically modified. This is to maintain peace in the corporate controlled world of 2610. Any variation from a peaceful and average existence is further medicated, and the surveillance and reporting sent those unresponsive to "pharmatherapy" to different zones, quarantining them far from those that were variant-positive.
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Zone 23
May 2017; Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant
978-3000555268; ebook, print (502 pages)
The story jumps around a lot, especially in the beginning. There are parenthetical asides and long-winded descriptions of the Zones, and the reliance on structure and order. Paragraphs are long and meandering, with a lot of technical and technical-sounding terms in them. It contains a lot of foul language and violence, casually tossed around without a lot of excessive description. Once you get used to that kind of storytelling style, you can see the biting commentary on life for what it is. Media, medicine, and pharmaceuticals are skewered, as is religion, marketing, history and even human nature. Some of the passages bring to mind "1984," especially with history rewritten, redacted or otherwise changed almost at random.

We're shown this the clearest in the form of Valentina Briggs, who made sarcastic comments and saw beneath the veneer of placid tranquility despite the medications she was taking since childhood. The very essence of "normal" was so ingrained in society that questioning it seemed hallucinatory and deviant, and her thinking process is finely outlined and clearly a psychotic break. The other character we follow in this story, Taylor Byrd, was branded a Type 3 Anti-Social Person from the start, and never medicated, is the other side of this tale. It's chilling how very clinical the laws are in regulating procreation and "disappearing" the women who accidentally get pregnant despite all of the preventative measures in place. Other people are simply taken out because they are rated a Type 3 ASP and considered at risk to themselves or others.

As much as I don't like the parenthetical and in-text footnote style of writing, the plot is compelling and keeps drawing me back in. I mentally side-stepped a number of those asides, to be honest, so that I could get to the actual story surrounding Taylor and Valentina, whose paths don't actually intersect until the very end. I'm not sure if I like the book because of that storytelling style, but I did care what happened to Taylor and Valentina. This is not a future that I look forward to, so hopefully, this serves as a cautionary tale if we invest too much time in Content and corporations and not enough in each other.

Buy Zone 23 at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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