Leave it to me to pick up the last in Terry Tyler’s Galton Trilogy to read first. But no matter, it’s a great stand-alone novel. For your information, the trilogy is named after Frederick Galton, a pioneer of eugenics in the late 19th and early 20th century, which should give you a good idea of the basis of these books.
The book initially revolves around Tara, the daughter of two drug addicts, who, when her parents are killed, runs. Tara had been living in one of the UK’s new mega cities, where citizens no longer own their own homes but live in ecofriendly apartments in buildings called Stacks. With no close relatives, she is eventually sent to one of the many Hope Villages, places outside the cities where people are sent who are homeless, have bucked the system or do not fit into their assigned careers. There she makes friends with Radar, another kid who does not fit in. She is adopted by a very rich and powerful couple, the Bettencourts, who raise her in a life of privilege, until the she discovers her adopted father molests the girls they adopt. She runs away yet again, finding menial jobs until she is discovered as the new face of Nucrop, a company that proclaims it makes healthy foods. She soon becomes a princess of media influencers, as long as she keeps quiet and does what she’s told. She comes to realize that while total surveillance has all but wiped out criminal activity, citizens’ activities and health are being monitored by their implanted biometric sensors.
We are then introduced to Aileen, who is forcibly uprooted to a megacity from the home she and her husband own. Soon after that, despairing of the control exerted by the government, her husband leaves her to live in the Wasteland, where people still live in freedom, although without electricity, running water and food. Without a husband and a job, she has no means of support, and she is forced to surrender her 18 month old daughter to NPU (non-parental upbringing) or go with her to a Hope Village. Aileen chooses NPU as best for her daughter and is then sent to school to learn technology, after which she is parceled out to a series of menial jobs. She is not allowed to see her daughter again, despite continuing assurances to the contrary by NPU.
Radar gets involved in gang rule at the Hope Villages and eventually is sent to jail. When he is released he is given the chance to live a ‘normal’ life. But in exchange for the loss of his soul.
The author eventually weaves together the lives of Aileen, Tara and Radar in an unexpected way, although knowing Terry’s tremendous strengths as a writer, I never doubted it would happen.
The outcomes of these three disparate lives demonstrates that the price of living in a megacity is too high for those who seek freedom. “’As long as some of us are still living free, they have not yet won. Anyone who refuses to live as they want us to has beaten them. That’s how we do it. That’s how we win.’” It’s a strong warning.