Is immortality desirable without joy? Is a content slave still a slave? Can civilization survive without renewal? Dell Zero is a literary dystopia that doesn’t shy away from heavy questions. Seen through the eyes of two very different characters, the novel shows a world that has chosen safety and stability above all by eliminating not just human emotions, but whole concepts and traditions. Love, family, and even simple physical pleasures are all gone, replaced by obedience and unthinking desire to work. Immortality is both a prize and a burden, but most citizens, thanks to constant chemical manipulation don’t really care one way or another- until the carefully designed system begins to break apart…
The book is not a fast read, and present-tense style takes some getting used to, contributing to the overall sense of detachment. It’s hard to care about the characters who don’t care that much about themselves, but that it partly the point. Even the most harrowing parts of the story are told in the same even tone, and although it sounds counter-intuitive, the effect is sometimes greater than it would have been with more graphic descriptions. As the characters grow and change throughout the story, and as pieces of the puzzle that makes the novel’s world come together, the reader gets more emotionally involved, almost in parallel with the characters. The author’s choice of style is brave, and unlike many beginner authors who come up with a cool concept but don’t know how to use it, she manages to pull it off.
This is by no means light pleasure reading, but neither is it unrelentingly dark – a good balance for a work in the dystopian genre. The ending strikes just the right note and leaves space for a sequel (series?) while still leaving the reader satisfied after the challenging journey.
Recommended to dystopia fans who may be looking for something not overtly political, yet still exploring big themes of human existence.
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