Looking for something to fill the void left by Veronica Roth & Suzanne Collins trilogies? How about a fast paced, no-holds-barred Dystopian one-shot from an exciting debut UK author?! How can you say no?!
Set One-Hundred years into the future, ACID is a tense thriller set in the totalitarian state that was once the United Kingdom. The book takes its name from the brutal police force that rules the country with an iron fist: No-one can say a word against the state, all jobs, partners & future lives are scripted & cultivated by ACID, & rebelling against the set out plans lands you in a horrific, bleak prison. One such inmate in this unforgiving & hellish high-security prison for violent offenders is Jenna Strong. Not only the sole female prisoner, but also just 18 years old, Jenna has learned quickly how to be strong, self-reliant & relentless in her self defence. She lives her day to day existence keeping her head down, trying to make her way through the sentence for the murder of her parents; a murder she doesn’t even properly remember committing. It’s during her usual routine of exercising & avoiding the lecherous advances of the male inmates that she’s dramatically broken out during an impromptu riot by a mysterious group of anti-ACID rebels, throwing her into the life of a wanted criminal on the run, in a world where the police are a constant presence in every city & monitor every individual via implants. Jenna has no idea why these rebels chose to risk their lives to free her, but she’s determined to get to the bottom of her parents murder, & in doing so she’s about to rock the very foundations of the corrupt government that has oppressed her for her entire life.
ACID starts off with a prison riot, so to say it hits the ground running is an understatement. The action is fast & frequent, but that isn’t to say that it’s thin on plot development at all. There are frequent breaks in the hectic fights & flights to allow great depth of character to be developed, & by moving the characters around, Emma Pass manages to give a great overview of this terrifying Orwellian society – From abandoned libraries full of forgotten to knowledge, to state of the art suites for the highest of societies, where technology makes life effortless. This stark gap between the haves & the have-nots is a jarring contrast, as well as a nod to the many similar societies today.
Jenna is a fantastic lead, a capable & driven young woman with an almost unhinged fixation on vengeance. She’s refreshingly rounded, frequently showing strength & weaknesses without appearing “Teen Fiction Cliché” – She wears her emotions on her sleeve, but those emotions are frequently hard & brutal. They also by no means get in her way – She’s intelligent, pragmatic & thoughtful, making her a formidable renegade. Her travel companion Max is much more the retiring, unsure character, which makes him refreshing to read, & his nervous tendencies coax a more caring side out of Jenna, without dropping into the usual painful romance territory, so the two leads complement each other very well. General Harvey plays a great, maniacal antagonist, demonstrating the idea that absolute power corrupts absolutely, & his back story shows a man slipping to the point of doing whatever he feels necessary. Some of his passages towards the end of the novel are truly chilling in their depiction of his unhinged & driven passion.
Above it all though, ACID is a mystery novel wrapped up in a thriller, wrapped up in a social commentary, wrapped up in a tortilla. Or something. The murder of Jenna’s parents, & her poor memory of the event, is instantly a red flag that there’s much more to this girl’s past than we know. Emma Pass teases out the answers to this mystery in a painfully slow drip, keeping the reading hooked on these precious puzzle pieces to satiate them – It’s masterfully done, with the mid-book change of pace throwing the reader into complete disarray. In fact, it could almost be two shorter books combined… At first I found it jarring, like starting the book again, but I soon realised how much more satisfying it was than having a book end on such a cliff hanger. The nice thing about ACID is that it isn’t filled with filler passages & bulked out to a trilogy; it’s a self contained thriller with enough mystery & action to keep you guessing, & so brilliantly tied up at the end that you feel fully satisfied by it – And in a world full of Dystopian Trilogies, that is a breath of fresh air.
So basically, if you want a no-punches-pulled Dystopia with conspiracy & a powerfully determined lead character – ACID is a book for you. Hurrah!
‘Til next time, Thanks for reading!
P.S. Emma’s 2nd novel, The Fearless, is due in April 2014, & already sounds fantastic!