11 May 2017 1:49 PM (book review)
Veracity by Laura Bynum is not terribly good. After a viral outbreak (that turns out to be a cover for poisoning a bunch of people under the guise of forced vaccination) a new order rises up that is repressive and pointlessly violent for, as far as I can tell, the sake of being repressive and pointlessly violent. People are implanted with Slates that shock them for saying proscribed words. She is inspired to join the resistance (a group of people who have deactivated their Slates and revere a mysterious tome known as ‘The Book of Noah’) when her daughter's name (‘Veracity’) is proscribed. They fight the government, win, and Free expression is restored.
I expected that the Book of Noah, revered with semi-religious awe, would be one of the dictionaries descended from that of Noah Webster and it was. That's not a complaint. It was easy to see coming, but a nice touch nonetheless. The protagonist feels like a fleshed out character as do most of the other sympathetic characters.
Unfortunately, this book attempts to be dystopian and it isn't very good at it. Maybe I have strange standards, but I don't think 1984 is a good dystopia either. (Though it's better written.) This book has the same ‘boot stamping on a human face’ problem that 1984 does, except where 1984 created an otherworldy culture of pervasive surveillance, interpersonal betrayal, and a seemingly omnipotent Party apparatus that has made a science of repression, Veracity has a nasty group of unimaginative thugs who are violent and rapey for no particularly good reason. A good dystopia, in case you're wondering, is a failed dream, a mistake carried through to perfection, or (my personal favorite) a state that the inhabitants enjoy perfectly well but that gives the reader a case of the howling fantods. Brave New World and We are good dystopias. I also like things like Platonov, I just don't think of them as dystopian. More magical-realist description of and commentary on the world around them.
The comparison with 1984 shows the other problem with this book. If one wishes to write a Sapir-Whorfian dictatorship, one should portray the effect on the thoughts of the populace. If the effect is that people are sad that they can't say some words that they like or their poetic expression is a lacking due to a cramped vocabulary, it undercuts the message of the power of language, and also undercuts the state's motivation for imposing it. Also, a Sapir-Whorfian dictatorship only really makes sense with something of a technocracy, not pointlessly violent thugs.
So. While this book isn't painful to read, there isn't any point in doing so. ★★☆☆☆