- Claire North.
- 464 pages.
- Dystopian / Literary Fiction.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
Theo Miller knows the value of human life – to the very last penny.
Working in the Criminal Audit Office, he assesses each crime that crosses his desk and makes sure the correct debt to society is paid in full.
But when his ex-lover is killed, it’s different. This is one death he can’t let become merely an entry on a balance sheet.
Because when the richest in the world are getting away with murder, sometimes the numbers just don’t add up.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
What is the value of a human life? Well, honestly, it varies, are you young? Are you old? Are you a benefit to society? Are you a burden to society? Are you valued? Will you be missed? Do you have the potential for future greatness? Will you always wallow in mediocrity? Are you a somebody? Are you a nobody?
In 84K everybody has a price and every crime also has a price. Commit a crime, pay that price (or as its known an indemnity) and you get away with the crime. Yes, if you can pay then you can even get away with murder. Can’t pay the price? Then you are taken to the patty line (which is the equivalent of slave labour) where you are treated as less than human working off the cost of your crime by making consumer goods and doing menial jobs, etc.
Human rights are a thing of the past in 84K, abolished with inhumanity and injustice now reigning supreme. The rich get richer living in luxury whilst the poor get poorer struggling to get by and survive with the divide between the two continuing to grow. In the world of 84K money is power, money talks and capitalism rules.
Theo Miller works in the Criminal Audit Office, he is one of many who audit the various crimes committed by people calculating the cost, the discounts (yes, you can get certain discounts on crimes) and the price of the indemnity for the offence.
Theo’s a nobody, his mundane life full of repetition with every day being the same for him, work, repeat, work, repeat and generally, he flys under the radar, keeping his head down, staying out of trouble and simply getting on with his job in the most vanilla way possible. Theo crunches the numbers and totals up the costs of people’s lives all the while remaining apathetic to the fact that he’s putting a cost on each individual human life.
Then, one day, Theo’s life is turned upside down as the past comes back to haunt him with the reappearance of Dani, a childhood friend and ex-lover who asks for and needs his help.
Before she can reveal all that she knows Dani is killed. Dani is only a patty, a drain on society, a nobody and no-one of any importance will care about her death anyway. Theo working in the Criminal Audit Office ends up with Dani’s file on his desk, given the task of totalling up the cost of his old friend’s life, her murder and the indemnity that her killer must pay.
What did Dani know? What had she found out that got her killed? Is it big? Could it bring down The Company? Finally deciding that things have to change, that enough is enough and realising that Dani’s life should have been worth more than her indemnity these are the questions that Theo must find answers to. Setting out on a quest that will take him on a journey across England and bring him face-to-face with a variety of characters as he attempts to uncover the truth.
84K takes place in England, the actual year that it is set is never mentioned but you get the feeling that the vividly realised and detailed setting is the not too distant future making the story very believable. The government still runs the country, at least in name but it is a token title as the government is controlled by The Company and all decisions of import are made by The Company.
Everything in 84K revolves around The Company, their rules, regulations and the costs that they place on every aspect of human life. They own and control everything and it can all be traced back to them, it could be a company that is part of another company that is an offshoot of another company but ultimately, it will go back to The Company.
84K is told in a non-linear way taking place across a few different timelines, flitting back and forth between them. Often showing backstory and highlighting moments and events that are crucial to the story. Personally, I didn’t find it confusing and was able to keep abreast of which timeline I was currently reading.
84K is written by North in what can only be described as a rather different and unique way. Sentences and paragraphs throughout the book are often left abandoned, fragmented and unfinished with some due to the line breaks and formatting (or lack thereof) even coming across akin to poetry in style. This way of writing does take some getting used to and at first, it makes the book (in places) hard to read as you, the reader are required to pay attention, to question, to think and to follow the train of thought by the characters and by North filling in the blanks and in places the meaning yourself.
For some, say, those readers who are on the lookout for a quick, simple and easy read the writing style will perhaps be a deal breaker but if you look past the initial hardship then 84K is a book worth persevering with and you will come to appreciate the style being used by North and the immersion and depth that it brings you.
It is easy to picture the world in 84K and how it has turned out. This also contributes to it being a hard read as you aren’t having to suspend your disbelief, reading about outlandish endeavours and scoffing at the craziness of the world. No, instead you will find yourself thinking shit, this could actually happen.
84K is a tremendous read that will stay with you long after finishing it. It is dark, gritty, original and is an eerily plausible and bleak look at what could be our own future.
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