Set in the not-too-distant future, this dystopian novel envisions the world after a climate catastrophe has dissolved governments and left a single corporation in control of people’s lives. The lucky Elite live in Sector 1, where the rich and powerful reap the benefits of the laborers in Sectors 2 and 3. “Human resources” are just that—raw material of economic necessity.
Balmoral Murraine is born into the Battery, one of the manufacturing centers of Sector 2. An accident in infancy gives her an uncanny ability to reach into the network that connects rich and poor alike in a simulated virtual reality and manipulate the code, making her the most dangerous woman alive and a threat to the Autonomy.
Houghton does an excellent job of world-building. Blending current technology with future advancements, he creates a very believable scenario where virtual reality is more real than reality itself. The plotting is solid and the characters evolve. While I was disappointed with the so-called life-altering secret that was supposed to change the world, the rest of the story was so good that it didn’t really diminish my enjoyment of it.
The body count is high so I’m not sure I’d call this a young adult novel as others have suggested. But there are so many good topics and themes, of economics, religion, sports and war, that this book would make an excellent choice for book discussion groups, which don’t typically select science fiction stories and maybe should.