Laura Bynum: Veracity

The best dystopian stories are the ones that seem disturbingly plausible. But the future painted in Veracity seems so unlikely, it might as well be set in another universe. Laura Bynum’s book sets the end of the United States in 2012, as a new government known as the Confederation Of The Willing takes over and forces all citizens to get implants that monitor every word they say. Speaking a banned word, like “America,” “revolution,” or “poem,” triggers an electric shock and alerts law-enforcement officials, who deliver punishments on the spot. These typically include rape and murder by torture, resulting in some stomach-turning passages where partners fight over whose turn it is to issue punitive action to a criminal.

Some flashbacks aside, the majority of the novel is set in the year 2045 and follows Harper Adams, a high-ranking government monitor who decides to join the resistance. After three decades, the government has succeeded in whittling down the English language to remove the vocabulary for resistance, while keeping its population happy with bountiful drugs and legalized prostitution.

Bynum seems to have drawn inspiration from the vigilante justice parsed out in Africa and the massive Chinese servers that monitor censored information, and mixed them into the plot of the film version of V For Vendetta. She never actually mentions the Patriot Act, but the leader of the resistance blames people’s willingness to accept a loss of rights for the sake of safety as the gateway to the fall of democracy. Still, the idea that the Obama administration is going to turn into a genocidal totalitarian regime seems ridiculous.

The characters are vanilla with very little depth. Most of the details about Adams surround her psychic powers, as psychics are so common in 2045 that they’re key to government surveillance. While it further discredits the book’s realism, the description of how those powers work and the effects they can have on someone trying to reconcile people’s surface affects with their thoughts is well thought out, and could have stood alone as the plot of a different novel.

Instead, Veracity focuses on the conflict that pits the resistance’s liberal academics and pissed-off young people against a faceless government that seems to have outlawed art and music for no discernible reason save evil. There are a few clever reveals, most notably the true nature of the Book Of Noah, a text believed to hold the key to the government’s downfall. But mostly, it’s just a weak attempt to update an old genre, sure to be forgotten by the time its prophecies are disproven.

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