Socialpunk, by Monica Leonelle, is the first book in a new futuristic series, and it’s quite the start to the trilogy. So much happens in such a short time that I was a little overwhelmed here and there, but it all comes together nicely by the end of the book that it left me anxiously awaiting more.
Ima, the main character, knows something isn’t quite right about her home under the Dome in Chicago. Years ago, the ozone layer became such a mess that all the remaining cities in the world had to be placed under a special dome to protect them from the sun’s strength. Beyond each of the Domes lies a Dead Zone, and no one really interacts with those from other cities.
In the beginning of the story (after the prologue), Ima is with her best friend/love of her life, Dash. Unfortunately, while Dash seems content to use her for carnal pleasures, he’s pretty much incapable of loving her. She and Dash are heading to some hot concert in the city, and Ima is on the run from her abusive father. At the concert, a mysterious hooded figure borrows a line from Terminator and basically says “Come with me if you want to live.” Ima’s life and, quite literally, her entire world changes when she accepts his help.
Ima is taken from her world, which may or may not exist, into one that she never even knew existed. She’s “upgraded” quickly, complete with an onboard computer in her brain. Ima must learn to survive in this new world, deal with unsavory “hashes,” and figure out a way to save all those she loves back in her own world.
Socialpunk is an interesting mix of social commentary, love story, and science fiction. I’ll warn you now, as it is the first book in a trilogy, it ends just as you’re really getting into the heart of the story. The majority of this first book is spent setting up the two very different worlds and introducing the key players on all sides. My favorite part of the book is what I perceive to be a commentary on the two extremes of media pirates versus media conglomerates. On one side is those who want to profit off of every last aspect of viewing art and media, right down to glancing at someone wearing a particular style on the subway. On the other side is the group that wants to make art a free-for-all, so everyone can have access to everything, and artists never really see their fair share of the profits. To me, Socialpunk was about finding a happy medium between the two sides, although I don’t know if that was the overall intention of the story itself.
The point is, Socialpunk is the type of story that really lets the reader find their own meaning in the different aspects of both worlds. It was a fast-paced read, and relatively short at about 275 pages. If this was the only book in the series, I’d say that character development was a little lacking. However, since it’s part of a trilogy, I feel that it was pretty on par, and I can’t wait to see what the next book has in store for the characters.
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