3 out of 4 stars
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Losing Normal by Francis Moss is an exciting sci-fi adventure for young adults. Alex Rinato has high functioning Asperger’s syndrome; he has a fantastic facility with numbers and an amazing memory. The downside to these talents is that he needs everything to be normal. Change of any kind upsets him, and the world is about to change drastically. Calliope, a technology company, has produced an automated entertainment system run by an AI called Sophie. The films and series created by it prove to be utterly addictive and many people are now doing little more than just sitting and watching TV. As Calliope expands and sets up huge screens in public places, the majority of the public is reduced to little more than zombies. Even worse, Calliope is now expanding into education, but Sophie has identified a problem. People whose brains are ’different’ or damaged are immune to Sophie’s siren call. The race is on to shut Sophie down before can ’fix’ Alex and people like him who want to break Sophie’s stranglehold on the population.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was exciting and fast-paced, and the narrative switched regularly between Alex and Sara, his gifted but decidedly unorthodox friend. There were also short clips from the Calliope system logs, indicating that all may not be well there either. The characters are likeable and human and I enjoyed the way Sara would try to make things ’normal’ for Alex so he could function during the confusion and change. I also liked the way the resistance was run from bookshops; an allegory for the modern world where an escape from the evils of technology is to be found in books and libraries.
There is quite a high body count in the story, it’s not graphically described but adults and children die in fires or are spirited away to somewhere terminal. I found the technobabble sometimes went over my head, especially towards the end, but it was probably meant to as Sophie was doing battle with brilliant super-nerds.
There wasn’t anything that I disliked in the content, but the book failed in the editing. There were missing words, for example, ’the farmhouse might under’ rather than ’the farmhouse might be under’. There were superfluous words such as ’I hope the data is be undamaged’, and there were apostrophe problems such as ’a trucker’s motel’ rather than ’a truckers’ motel’. Lucinda Clark was twice referred to as ’he’, and some of the men had feminine ’blonde’ hair.
It is such a shame about the lack of editing because otherwise, I might have awarded the book 4 stars. If I could, I would give it 3.5 stars, but as I can’t, I am giving it 3 out of 4 stars.
This book will appeal to young adults who enjoy exciting technology based sci-fi.
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