Sadly, as soon as you finish reading it, you may find yourself with an irresistible urge to move to the most off-grid news-remote place possible—I’m thinking the Arctic Circle or Trump Reelection Headquarters—so you may wish to get the digital copy while you still have anything connected to the grid. Just saying.
As the fourth decade of the 21st century looms, new PM Guy Morrissey and his fitness guru wife Mona (hashtag MoMo) are hailed as the motivational couple to get the UK #FitForWork, with Mona promising to ‘change the BMI of the nation’.
Lita Stone is an influential blogger and social media addict, who watches as Guy and Mona’s policies become increasingly ruthless. Unemployment and homelessness are out of control. The solution? Vast new compounds all over the country, to house those who can no longer afford to keep a roof over their heads.
These are the Hope Villages, financed by US corporation Nutricorp.
Lita and her flatmates Nick and Kendall feel safe in their cosy cyberspace world. Unaware of how swiftly bad luck can snowball, they suspect little of the danger that awaits the unfortunate, behind the carefully constructed mirage of Hope.
Terry Tyler’s nineteenth published work is a psychological thriller that weaves through the darker side of online life, as the gap between the haves and the have-nots grows ever wider. Whether or not it will mirror a dystopian future that awaits us, we will have to wait and see.(All books in this series are designed to be read and enjoyed as stand-alones as well.)
- Book Title: HOPE
- Author: Terry Tyler
- Genre: Dystopian psychological thriller
- Length: 516 pages
- Published: May 24th 2019
My Review: 5 out of 5 stars for Hope by Terry Tyler
Just when I come up with something that defines Terry Tyler’s writing, she delivers another game changer. In reviewing her other books, I’ve said that the one thing you can count on is that she’s not identified by genre, style, or theme. In fact, each new book (or series) is almost completely different from the others.
So what does Terry do? She writes Hope, a psychological thriller that echoes the dystopian themes and warnings of her excellent Project Renova series. And you know what’s worse? It’s good—seriously good.
The story follows Lita Stone, lifestyle blogger and social influencer—a term she hates but embraces all the same because it comes with the money, gifts, and freebies that make up her income. Although she works part time in a cafe, she sees her time there as a chance to ‘interact with live human beings’, while her main source of income is her blog. But along with her roommate Nick, Lita is worried about the slow, almost imperceptible, changes to the world around her—changes that see people less willing to help each other, and more willing to accept the loss of social gains and even privacy.
Lita lives with her two best friends—political blogger Nick and surrogate little sister Kendall. Together, they represent in microcosm most of the population of the UK. Nick is the brooding but altruistic visionary who is first to see what’s going on, but fundamentally underestimates the scope and scale of his enemy. Lita is the damaged orphan, an unreliable narrator terrified of sharing her love with anyone outside of the three-person family they’ve made, incapable even of trusting her relationship with her not-quite-boyfriend Brody. But she’s also the glue that holds their little chosen-family unit together. Kendall is the one who accepts #MoMo’s promises. It’s just so much easier to ignore the threat posed by the Hope Villages with their horrific echoes of the worst Victorian workhouses than to bother thinking for herself. Ironically, it’s Kendall who symbolizes the rest of the country. She surrenders her heart and soul to MoMo’s promises, is betrayed in the most fundamental way by the Hope Villages, yet represents the hope for the future.
As with all her work, Terry’s signature is her brilliant character development. Lita, who narrates most of the story, slowly peels back her own layers to reveal the insecurities that make her an unreliable narrator, both less smart and more brave than she realizes as she accepts the unthinkable situation as well as the unbelievable possibility that she is the one person who might change it.
Author Terry Tyler’s brilliant world building and character development doesn’t stop with the main characters. Consider this description of CJ, the former lover of Lita’s ‘sometimes-boyfriend’ Brody:
“He was offered the room by his friend CJ, with whom he had a relationship at one time; she’s one of those frightfully boho, arty women who say clever, profound things about the role of women in society. She has a bleached platinum crop and endless legs that are usually encased in black leather jeans; she’s a freelance website designer who vapes constantly and only ever drinks neat Grey Goose vodka, which I can’t help thinking is just a pose.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen and readers, is how you nail an entire character in two sentences. (You should probably take a breath now.)
There’s a theme that repeats several times through the book. “We are defined by the choices we make.” An entire country accepts a choice of government that promises to keep them safe—in exchange for loss of personal choice, and even at the cost of systematically turning their most precious possessions—phone, social media connections, internet access, friends, and even their own families—against them.
Kendall accepts life without trying to make choices. Lita doesn’t even realize she’s made the choice that starts her spiral into homelessness and life in the Hope Villages. And Nick makes a spur-of-the-moment choice that changes everything. But the turning point for Lita is what I think is the theme of the book, and that occurs when she accepts and then embraces being defined by the choices she’s made.
I wouldn’t say this is a perfect book. As I’ve said before, the author’s grasp of real world economics is shaky at best. I think most Americans would, like me, be amused at the thought they would—even for commercial reasons—have any desire to own the UK. (They might also be surprised at all the references to the ‘American Dream’ which actually means the exact opposite of how it’s repeatedly used here.)
But what I realized was that these points are actually irrelevant. When watching Walking Dead, you don’t stop to say, “But you know, zombies don’t really exist.” Nobody tells Harry Potter there’s no such thing as magic. And of course, Bambi can talk. Duh. In the same way, the real horrors of Hope Villages don’t lay with the economics of the structure, but with an all-too-human tendency to let others make choices for you.
There are so many brilliant echoes in this book, like the subtle reminders of the dystopian Big Brother in Nineteen Eighty-Four, with its not-at-all subtle echoes of the Nazis and their own ‘Final Solution’. But there are also notes of humor and love and—in an even more ironic twist on the title—hope. So unlike the dystopian classics, the flawed, three-dimensional, characters of Hope had me rooting for them and, yes, believing that hope is possible.