"Your novel is a nightmare that's just around the corner. I can hardly think of it as fiction. It might still be just a story for now, and significant parts of the book will probably remain so, but the key ideas look very real to me. I feel like this insane world that we live in just needs to take a few more steps before plunging into your concept of dystopia."
This is how one of my friends called Dan (not his real name) described Market Dystopia to me. He was among the first readers to review my latest novel and invited me for coffee to discuss about it. I thought that this would be fairly straightforward but he was visibly troubled by what I had written. He almost sounded like he wished that he had not read the book. The Covid-19 pandemic delivered such a blow to his outlook on life that my novel apparently dampened his mood even further. "You see", he said, "it's one thing to be scared of horror stories but quite another to read about something that your grandchildren might have to deal with."
At this point, I almost wondered if I needed to apologise for making him upset but I needed his feedback. That's what writers do: they always ask their readers, especially those who have early access to their new books, to comment on the story. "So what exactly scares you in Market Dystopia?" I asked.
"The social media transformation that you describe," he replied. "The possibility that it's going to get a hundred times worse than what it is today and that we are going to end up being freaking numbers on a platform with the government having the option to literally kick us out of town if we don't deliver what's expected of us. I mean, it's already happening. The difference between your book and the world around us is that you put numbers on situations that people hate to talk about. You attempted to quantify them. I don't think that society wants that. Sometimes it's better to keep your head in the sand."
"Maybe, but I'm not changing the story."
"Not asking you to do that. Just giving you my opinion. Besides, I'm probably telling you all this because I hate social media. My daughter is more interested in her Instagram account than taking my calls. Your book reminded me of that."
I don't know if Dan provided me with the most accurate assessment of Market Dystopia. After all, he was only the fourth person to have read it. That's not enough when it comes to getting a proper overview of the potential impact of a book. I reckon that it will take at least a year before I know where Market Dystopia stands. Books have very long lives and it is impossible to tell where this one is heading. Dan is right about one thing though: Market Dystopia is not a lighthearted novel. I wrote it while I was in confinement at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Did that influence my writing? Unquestionably. When the world falls apart, the immediate question that comes to mind is: how bad can things get? I probably provided my own answer in Market Dystopia.
The story happens in 2053. All social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram...) that were created in the first quarter of the twenty-first century have disappeared. Having fulfilled their task of collecting crucial information on their users, they have been replaced by a single application called the Human Value Index (HVI). Powered by big data and artificial intelligence, the HVI application calculates the value of each individual living in a global city through a points-based system established by the elites. The values fluctuate like share prices on a gigantic stock exchange and become the cornerstone of a new social hierarchy.
The system is brutally enforced by the "Sub-Fifty Rule." Citizens whose values drop below 50 points are deemed unfit to live in a global city and are ruthlessly eliminated by agents of a monstrosity called the Valuation Office. Lawyer Bruce Jordan tries desperately to fight this new order and finds himself confronting London's most sinister power circles. Despite the forces that threaten to destroy him, Bruce Jordan is determined to prove that human life is worth more than just a number within the new Market Dystopia.
Does it look like I was influenced by George Orwell (1984) and Aldous Huxley (Brave New World)? Well, yeah. Except that the world of Market Dystopia is still just a potential one while those described in 1984 and Brave New World seem strikingly real. The only similarity between Market Dystopia and the other two novels is that hope is completely absent. There is no better world ahead. The rules are set in stone and you cannot even win by walking away from the game. Even death seems insufficient when it comes to escaping once and for all.
I'll stop here since I don't want to depress you any further.
Happy reading, Ashley Boolell
Market Dystopia is available on Amazon in Ebook and Paperback editions.