This dystopian Young adult novel is set in a bland, pleasant, boring town where a group of intelligent teenagers are “educated” at a school which aims to make them amenable to the World Presidential dictatorship. Following a cybercrash, global warming, natural disasters and disease, continents had disappeared and the world’s population vastly depleted.
But we have a very likeable hero in 17-year-old Will; distraught by the sudden death of his father he still manages to give emotional support to his little sister. Handsome and popular, he hasn’t taken much notice of oddball, Amber, who takes little interest in her hair or clothes and seems to be in a dream most of the day. However, they are drawn together by their unease about the apparent “good life” they are leading. Amber is the genetically engineered daughter of wealthy parents she hardly sees but she hears voices and constantly dreams of the four horses of the apocalypse. Will is convinced that his father’s death is no accident.
It is easy to engage with the main characters, while the callous teacher Mr Neots, has a splendid Dahlesque quality. There is great humour in the creation of Ned, the voice-responsive computer. His ability to produce essays for Will’s homework, while also exhibiting a distinct attitude problem, lightens the feeling of impending disaster.
As Will and Amber realise that the government cannot be trusted and that Will is under observation, the plot moves rapidly and they find themselves in more danger as they approach the truth.
I particularly liked the concluding chapters though I couldn’t possibly reveal their content!