All Rights Reserved is a story that would work perfectly as an episode of Black Mirror. The premise sounds a bit far fetched, but at the same time you can’t help but wonder if it isn’t something that might just happen one day. I mean, personalized advertising the book mentions often, is already sort of a thing now…
All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis
Genres: Dystopia, Young Adult
Published: 29th August, 2017
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Series: Word$ #1
In a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked, one girl elects to remain silent rather than pay to speak, and her defiant and unexpected silence threatens to unravel the very fabric of society.
Speth Jime is anxious to deliver her Last Day speech and celebrate her transition into adulthood. The moment she turns fifteen, Speth must pay for every word she speaks (“Sorry” is a flat ten dollars and a legal admission of guilt), for every nod ($0.99/sec), for every scream ($0.99/sec) and even every gesture of affection. She’s been raised to know the consequences of falling into debt, and can’t begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words that she’s unable to afford.
But when Speth’s friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family’s crippling debt, she can’t express her shock and dismay without breaking her Last Day contract and sending her family into Collection. Backed into a corner, Speth finds a loophole: rather than read her speech–rather than say anything at all–she closes her mouth and vows never to speak again. Speth’s unexpected defiance of tradition sparks a media frenzy, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps, and threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.
Imagine you live in the world where everything you say costs you serious money. Depending on the day words that were cheap just last week can skyrocket in price as they are treated like shares on the stock market. You can have opinions, but you might not be able to afford to express them.
One of our basic humans rights nowadays is the freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Have you ever thought that maybe some opinions shouldn’t be allowed to aired in public? Well, the people in this story have, and it’s not pretty. Once they reach the age of 15, everyone forced to wear a tracking device that charges them money as soon as they open their mouths to speak. These devices are also known for occasionally exploding for no reason, killing the person wearing them. Lovely. Facial expressions and body language are also not free: use them to expressively or too often, and you’ll have to pay.
All Rights Reserved could have been a fascinating book, if it weren’t for Speth, our accidental hero. Yes, accidental, because as much as the blurb tries to suggest that she’s some sort of a revolutionary figure who inspires change throughout the whole nation, at the end of the day she’s just a fifteen year old girl who makes one stupid decision after the other, based on fuck knows what, because most of the time her actions were not driven by conscious decision, but rather teenage defiance. You know, the sort of situation in which you are given multiple opportunities to save your parents from eternal imprisonment by giving your government mandated speech and you go like “yeah… hmm, no can do because I’m relatively sure I don’t feel like.”
This book could have been way more powerful, as opposed to quite entertaining, if Speth would have been a bit older, or at least more conscious of her decisions. After all, most fifteen year old kids don’t have a well thought out plan for their future let alone the future of their fellow countrymen, and it’s perfectly normal. It’s also quite normal to make some not-so-great decisions, especially under pressure, but the sheer stupidity of this girl infuriated me quite often. Her choice to not speak didn’t seem like a choice, more like a combination of fear and some kind of silly logic that was great to drive the plot forward, but this girl couldn’t even explain it to her self most of the time why she’s actually doing all this. Speth literally took every opportunity to fuck someone over, be that herself, her sister her beloved little brother (who is adorable as fuck by the way) or her friends.
This is quite an action packed story, and once Speth joins the mysterious group called The Placers, things take an interesting turn. Kel, Margot and Henri were awesome, and I wish I could have seen their perspective, but alas I was stuck with poor Speth and had to see it through her eyes as she jeopardized her newfound friendships and quasi betrayed these lovely people for seemingly shits and giggles. As I said, young teens are not famous for making wise decisions, but they are also not knows for fucking everything up all the time. To be fair, Speth did have the occasional good idea, and it’s fair game to rely on the help of her friends when it comes to execution, but she just went about it in such sly ways sometimes, that it made me wonder whether it was even worth it.
While the story certainly had quite an atmosphere, I felt like I didn’t get a proper feel of the city and the people living in it. Of course, it’s expected that when your opinions and words are controlled, information won’t be free flowing, but I couldn’t figure out if they live in a massive city, like New York for example, or perhaps the population living under these domes are more spread out. I also had no real sense of how this government works. Speth’s city (dome?) seems to be run by powerful lawyers, one of them being something like the Chief Justice, but the scale of this eluded me completely.
Unnecessary drama is another thing I don’t tolerate well, and boy did I get a massive dose of it in my face. Why? WHY? Also, thanks, Speth… Thanks a lot! Asshole.
I’m still on the fence whether I want to continue with the series or not. On one hand I’m quite curious of how the story will continue with the revolution, but I’m just not quite sure I can put up with Speth’s antics one more time.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, but this didn’t influence my opinion.