Saturday, January 31, 2015

REVIEW: Non-Compliance: Equilibrium / Paige Daniels

TITLE: Non-Compliance: Equilibrium
AUTHOR: Paige Daniels
PUBLISHER: Kristell Ink
AVAILABILITY: Smashwords, Amazon

Science Fiction - Dystopia/Cyberpunk

This book follows Non-Compliance: The Sector and Non-Compliance: The Transition.

Non-Compliance: Equilibrium brings Paige Daniels' gritty dystopian cyberpunk trilogy to a thrilling conclusion. It picks off where the second book left off, with tough-as-nails ex-engineer Shea Kelly now effectively second-in-command in the non-compliance sector, a reservation of sorts for those who refuse to accept a government brain chip. Like everyone else in the sector, Shea still holds on to the old values that the USA lost after a brutal war in this dark future – ideas like freedom and independence. While life in the Non-Compliance Sector is tough, the people are at least free to make their own lives.

Equilibrium offers a glimpse at just how rigid the Compliant world is. You need to be a "verified couple" in order to raise a child; otherwise, your "child-rearing license" could be denied, and your baby taken away. While they offer security and comfort – high tech, steady employment, access to healthcare, and the like – they demand every aspect of your life in return. Meanwhile, in the Non-Compliance Sector, Shea struggles to obtain a desperately needed vaccine for her people while dealing with government agents who bully the Non-Compliant and keeping a gang of drug-addicted youths from terrorizing the town.

It's interesting to see how Shea has developed over the course of the trilogy. In the first book, Non-Compliance: The Sector, Shea was a bartender in a hole-in-the-wall joint who resented the Boss and his right hand man, Quinn Knightley, for using brute force to maintain order. In Equilibrium, the tables have turned on her. Quinn is the new Boss, and Shea is the new Quinn. For the good of many, she's forced to make the same tough decisions she once resented Quinn for.

Yet despite her new position, she's still the same old Shea we all know and love. A takes-no-crap smart-mouth who never backs down from a fight. Meanwhile, her relationship with Quinn has reached new levels. Both she and Quinn are haunted by the specters of past tragedies, and she fears those memories will keep them from moving forward as a couple. The two have had great chemistry from Book 1, and after so many past hardships, Shea begins to hope that she might actually get a Happily Ever After of sorts.

But the world has a way of screwing Shea over, and she finds herself making some of the most wrenching decisions of her life. Not only for the sector, but for herself and the people she loves as well. Daniels is merciless when it comes to throwing challenges toward Shea and depicting the horrors of a utopian society gone wrong. All this makes for an exciting read that keeps the pages turning as you wonder how things could possibly turn out well. But Shea is nothing if not dogged, and no matter how dire her circumstances, she always finds a way to fight back.

As a whole, the Non-Compliance trilogy has been a great read, with its dark dystopian themes and gritty cyberpunk elements. And it's an interesting take on the dangers of technology – how something well-intentioned can be twisted into something horrible. What I found especially interesting was that the trilogy wasn't afraid to show a different point of view. Most dystopias today have become predictable – band of plucky rebels aims to take down an evil government. InNon-Compliance, the world depicted is considerably more complicated. The Non-Compliant are stuck in their sector, but it is their home. Crossing over to the other side is seen as betrayal. And yet they trade with the Compliant for supplies they need, since, tough as they are, they are simply no match for the government, and most citizens are happily Compliant. They're comfortable; they don't want to rebel. And so Shea and her crew do what they can within their sector.

I would recommend this whole trilogy to any fan of gritty fiction, be it dystopias or contemporary (the trilogy takes place in the near future). With its compelling characters and thrilling twists, it's been an amazing ride.

Paige Daniels is the pen name for Tina Closser. When she isn't busy with her nine to five job as an electrical engineer she helps her husband with a small hobby farm complete with a mini horse, cows, and sheep. In between farm duties and running the kids to gymnastics she likes to write, thus the creation of this novel.

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