Cindy Pon, Want, Simon & Schuster, April 2019, 352 pp., RRP $15.95 (pbk), ISBN 9781481489232
Dystopian fiction may have fallen from the original Hunger Games heights, but a new, more nuanced interpretation may be ready to take its place in the form of ‘Cli-Fi’. While stories of apocalypse driven by environmental and ecological damage date back to John Whydham’s The Day of the Triffids, it is not surprising that given the rapid and highly evident impacts of climate change young people may turn to fiction that echoes their dystopian feelings.
Want is the first of a series by Cindy Pon which combines high-octane action and high-tech adventure with an all too possible vision of our future. In this future, the haves and the have-nots are harshly divided by whether they can afford to purchase a suit from Jin Corporation. These suits provide the protection needed to literally survive in the polluted and poisoned city, and those who cannot afford to artificially extend their lives with this technology are destined to eke out their short and painful existences living day to day, hand to mouth. For the elite, life is a series of parties and excess, as they fly above the smog in their airborne mo-peds and pretend that the poorer members of their society simply do not exist.
Jason Zhou and his friends are determined to change the status quo. Having witnessed the corruption and censorship of information first-hand, they plan to infiltrate the lives of those associated with the Jin Family and destroy the corporation from within. However, nothing is as black and white as it seems.
This title, released in 2017, (now released as a paperback into the Australian market in 2019) has been followed up by the sequel Ruse. With its diverse characters and timely themes of ecological destruction, pandemic and a social commentary that comes straight out of our headlines today, this series is definitely one to engage students aged between 12-16. The series is a must have for every secondary school library.
Reviewed by Kay Oddone