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Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett

Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett
Book Name: Vigilance
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Publisher(s): Tor.com
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Science Fiction / Dystopia
Release Date: January 29, 2019

Robert Jackson Bennett is one of the authors whose writing, I eagerly look forward to whenever something new is announced. I was a bit skeptical about this title though, as this is a dystopic science fiction novella, which is not a genre I associate Bennett with. But he once again proved admirably why he is one of the most thoughtful and passionate writers currently active. And his brilliant grasp of his characters once again makes readers feel things with them as well as for them.

If you are his fan, you know Bennett loves to keep things self-contained in his works, I mean his famous trilogy The Divine Cities is actually comprised of three stand-alone novels set in the same world. Vigilance is also a stand-alone story, set in the not-so-far future United States, which is not-so-impossible from our version of reality when you think about it. It is also a kind of warning sign of what could be, if we let our enthusiasm for violence and firearms run rampant.

The story is set in the year 2030, in a future where gun violence and mass murder has become such a common thing that there is a reality show about it named, Vigilance. One of the main characters, John McDean is the executive producer of the show. He is a selfish, arrogant and generally bad person, who is the main architect behind the show. Vigilance uses the attraction of the general populace behind the idea of a mass shooting and turned the mindless violence into manufactured entertainment. We, the readers, are thrown into such a staged yet equally real situation of an episode of the show, while Bennett slowly unravels the world that the story is set in.

There is another mostly sane character named Delyna, who just might be the only logical character in this altogether illogical setting. Her plight was added so skillfully as another piece in the craziness, aiming to give readers a sense of familiarity and hopefulness in the otherwise hopeless setting.

But slowly as the story progresses, everything keeps getting more and more brutal and bleak; and the author never tries to sugarcoat his vision of this hellish future of America. Through the madness, any conscious reader can clearly see this could be a reality in our future and that’s the horror I guess the author was aiming for. Frankly that is what kept me glued to the story and unable to turn my attention anywhere else while I was literally immersed in it.           

Although I would have liked the story to have a bit more length, and some more characters, or existing characters to get more screen time, I can’t really find any fault with the prose, the emotional brutality and the message that Bennett was trying to deliver. And as a matter of fact, I don’t really expect anything less from him.

A must read for and the socially concerned genre reader, or fans of dystopian fiction, but it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.


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