Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Titles usually don't play a big part when I select a book but Why You Were Taken got my attention. A simple declarative statement. The promise a question will be answered. The "you" makes it personal.
Once inside I was not disappointed. WYWT appealed to me from the start with its combination of mystery, investigation, intriguing technology, strong characters, and thrilling action.
I'd also put it in the realm of near sci-fi. "Near" because the technology isn't all that farfetched: algae powered street lights, biomorphic buildings, locket cameras, superblack clothing, snakewatches -- I don't know what a snakewatch is but I want one. The author doesn't dwell on or over explain the technology, it just is.
The main story opens in 2021 in a not quite dystopian Johannesburg, SA.
It's not quite dystopian but the potential is there: blackouts, undrinkable tap water, an infertility crises, soaring suicide stats, personal autos have all but disappeared. Ok, the last one might not be so bad. If you follow news in South Africa you'll know that two of those events already threaten SA: energy and water are at the crises stage. Combining contemporary and future societal elements does a lot to bind the story together.
Balancing the story's present, are journal entries from a young woman, Anne, in 1987 Johannesburg. She's in the throws of her own crises, unmarried and pregnant. But through her eyes we get snippets of apartheid South Africa, world events, what she's reading, watching, and listening to, how her life plays out. Trust me, this blends into the story and enhances it.
Previously I said I liked the strong characters. In Kirsten Lovell and Seth Denicker, Lawrence has created two of the more interesting characters I've encountered. Kirsten is a photographer, a victim of the infertility crises, and her parents have just been murdered. She is also a synesthete where one type of sensation evokes another. For Kirsten, sounds produce smells, sensations are seen as colors. Backing up Kristen is Keke, a journalist and possibly my favorite character. I'm a sucker for the spirited sidekick. Seth is as creative as Kirsten but in a different way. He is a skilled mathematician and a creative bioengineering designer. We see him working on a new drug, moving molecules around to achieve the desired effect. He's like a graphic artist creating a design but with molecules instead of ink.
Why You Were Taken is a good read. It has the story, setting, and characters to pull you in and the legs to make you keep reading. It also has things that make you go "hmm, I wonder if...". There is at least one more story to be told with these characters and I hope the author will write that story some day. That means you need to buy this book.