Thursday, October 16, 2014

Audiobook Review: Goodhouse

Listened 10/1/14 - 10/13/14
4 Stars: Strongly recommended to readers who enjoy being warned away from an inevitable and unwelcome future
Audio: 10.8 hrs, narrated by Will Damron
Publisher: FSG
Released: September 2014

Science will be man's downfall. We are getting too smart for our own good and it will be the end of us. 

In Peyton Marshall's near-future dystopian novel Goodhouse, we have discovered the genes that predict criminality. Believed to be passed down from parent to child, all male children born to convicted parents are tested at a young age for these genetic markers. If they test positive, they are taken away to Goodhouses - part boarding school, part prison - where they are locked away and trained how to be "right thinking" members of society by their 18th birthday. 

The problem with this? Well, for starters, the genetic coding seems to only detect criminality in boys. Not girls. So we're only in a position to attempt correction or rehabilitation on a portion of our population. To that I say, if you can't go big, you might as well go home. Throw the friggen towel in. The battle was lost before it even began. Talk about unfair. In other cultures and countries being born a boy meant a life of privilege.But not anymore. Turn up positive for those tell-tale genes and all of your rights are stripped from you in the blink of an eye. By the end of this century, you'd be better off born a girl.

However, after hearing about all the shit that goes on behind the gates and walls of those Goodhouses, you'd think that the proctors and teachers were actually trying to break, instead of heal, those poor young boys. Paired up in dormitories, as you might be during your freshmen year of college, the boys are issued new names and these neat little GPS chips - surgically placed under the skin near their bellies - that broadcast where you are, where you've been, and what you've been doing. If you fail to follow a rule, or report to your class or dorm room late, or you back-talk a class leader or proctor, you and your roommate are issued demerits. Yup. Both of you. Nothing like pitting you and your bestie against each other and creating a stressful, hostile situation, right? Hell, to sweeten the pot, not only do those demerits cause conflict among roommates once you earn them, those demerits also weigh against your statuses. Ultimately, you want to be a Level 1. That means you're top-notch. You behave yourself and abide by all the rules. When you graduate from Goodhouse at a level 1, you're guaranteed to return to society with all the privileges and responsibilities of a normal "civilian". 

Needless to say, Goodhouses are breeding grounds for some wicked fighting and mistreatment. An entire school, populated by frustrated, confused, brainwashed teenaged boys with mouths full of hate and fists of fury.... nah, we never predicted THAT would go bad, did we? As if they needed any more provocation, Class leaders are allowed to torture and torment their peers, right in front of teachers and proctors, without repercussion. And the only way to unseat a Class Leader is to challenge them in a fight. Win the fight, and you're the new Class Leader. Lose, and... well... it could be confinement for you at the worst, or a boatload of demerits at the best.

Oh, and did I mention that there's this crazy religious group called The Zero's who view the Goodhouses and all those who live within its walls as abominations? And they torch the buildings and students, setting purifying fires to purge the world of these miscreants? And some of them have worked their way into the system and function as Goodhouse staff, working their evil from the inside out?

Marshall's novel, written from the pov of one of the students, an older boy named James, is a tentative, cautionary look at the road humanity is heading down. And a warning to those of us who look to science as the cure for  what makes us human in the first place. Free will. This is the story of James' fight to take back his free will, to regain his entrance into society as a normal "civilian" and to tear apart the corrupted Goodhouse system, once and for all.

I highly recommend experiencing this novel as an audiobook. The narration was incredibly well paced and though I'd never heard anything read by Will Damron before, I was really impressed with how well he conveyed James' evolution from confused and fearful student to eventual unsung-hero. A great match between reader and content. 

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