A. J. Smee
Reviewed by Haley Kilgour for Reader Views (12/2021)
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the land is scorched and to survive, society has taken to scrounging. With many children orphans, the adults have no problem making sacrifices of them as no one will miss them. Nestor, without guidance for the first time, must venture into the world in search of a cure for his worsening headaches that can be debilitating. After a run-in with child collector Kuntryve, he meets up with a group, Children Y, that have been hiding for years. While Nestor knows Kuntryve is dangerous, he doesn’t realize how much so until he learns the children are given over to a mad doctor who is cutting open their skulls to test brain implants.
“Scarboys” by A.J. Smee is a well-done dystopian book. There are a few things that could’ve been done better, but overall, I did enjoy it. The whole concept of this post-apocalyptic world is interesting. The ecological consequences of the greed of mankind are blatantly clear, which draws an interesting future parallel to where our current society could be headed. Where it starts to diverge is in the “commodity of children”. There are a few instances when adults mention that kids are a commodity because they can be used as slaves and soldiers. While I get that, it’s not exactly a sustainable practice. And given that we don’t see any proof of the “child commodity” outside of Moize, it’s a little hard to accept as fact.
Nestor as a character is interesting because he’s very naïve to the ways of the outside world. And though I understand his aunt was out of touch with reality, I still think she could’ve better prepared him for the world. What I also didn’t get was Nestor was supposed to find this Dr. Pleck yet somehow it was actually Moize that gave him the brain web. Also, it was very obvious early on that this is what was going on with him.
On to the brain webs. I think it was an interesting technology to include in this book. And with the mad doctor behind it, it made it fun. Yet, there were some issues in the “powers” that the brain web gave—especially that this is a sci-fi book. By the end, Nestor was able to see auras as well as read minds/implant thoughts. While I get how increased perceptions works for a device that increased intelligence, the two main things he experienced were more like fantasy superpowers.
Throughout the book, there were very few mistakes, but there were some inconsistencies regarding the chapter headers. If an author is going to do excerpts as chapter headers, they need to be consistent throughout. Overall a good read!