3 out of 4 stars
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The story happens in an indeterminate time and place in the future. People now live on platforms as water has covered the globe. The only way to expand infrastructure is to build up. The poor live in small apartments made of flimsy boards; sometimes, only curtains keep the residents from public view. The rich have better homes which are usually not rusty and have actual doors. However, regardless of where one lives, security cameras can be found everywhere. The Safety Department monitors everyone, although couples are allowed to cover the cameras for a few moments of intimacy.
It is usual for people to have all sorts of implants and cybernetics. The net is accessed with the use of special eyeglasses. Reporters stream news online; footages are recorded via implants in the reporters’ eyes.
We follow reporter Zee Vargas as he snoops around for a juicy piece of news. Checking with his friend Claude, a mortician, he learns that the suicide rates are up. The last two suicides (by drowning as is usual these days) are twin sisters; both are wearing identical necklaces. Has jewelry become hazardous to one's mental health?
The author, Alexis Clear, has a fantastic imagination. She paints her dystopian world vividly: the smelly docks surrounding the platforms, the rickety apartments of the poor versus the comfortable homes of the better-off, the unusual proceedings of a funeral, and how the Safety Department controls everything and abuses its authority.
She does not elaborate on the physical features of her characters, but she gives them backstories that enable the reader to relate to them as actual people. There is a mixture of characters, male, female and otherwise, old and young, rich and poor, and good and bad, making for a very realistic society. Zee is a lovable (if occasionally foolish) protagonist.
Happy Place is a fascinating read, and the story may very well happen soon. There are good things. Sexual freedom is apparent: One character has two mothers as parents. Same-sex relationships are openly discussed. Racial differences seem inconsequential. There are bad things, too. Journalists are threatened for reporting misdeeds, and many times, they are mauled by those they expose. Privacy is compromised. Crimes have corresponding fines, so the rich can get away with doing wrong. (Well, some things never change!)
Clear keeps the reader interested from the first line to the final period by keeping the action going strong. She uses simple language and injects snatches of welcome humor. She extols the importance of family and friends, hard work and integrity, and of course, love. Her story has a satisfying ending, but there is room for a sequel.
While I enjoyed the story, it isn’t perfect. Editing issues pepper the pages. Dialogue tags are erroneously formatted and are sometimes missing, making it hard to know who is speaking. Comma splices and sentence fragments are everywhere. There are missing articles, wrong verbs, and other grammar slips. The poor editing constrained me to give the book 3 out of 4 stars.
This book will delight fans of dystopian fiction and techies. Readers have to be prepared for a heavy dose of profanity, though. Sexual content is minimal. I invite young adults and older to read this story and discover what’s happy about this place.
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