✎Author: Kim Curran
✎Publisher: Jurassic London
✎Publication date: May 2014
I read this book in two sittings. Granted, both of those were extended, woe-is-me-I’m-so-sick sittings, where one hour turns into twelve and before you know it, you’re about to embark upon the final ten percent of the book—but still. That fact is countered by this: I never read books like this. Glaze might not be published by Strange Chemistry, but she’s one of them. So there’s a certain loyalty attached. I ummed and ahhed about whether or not to try and score a review copy of Glaze and evidently, loyalty—and no small amount of curiosity—won out in the end.
I’m glad it did.
Glaze has been called, here and there, “dystopian” YA science fiction. Whilst I’m down with the sci-fi label, I hesitate over the first. I’ve always wondered why “dystopian-utopia” (or flip it around, depending on how you like it served) isn’t a Thing. How often is something really one or the other? Off-hand I can think of only the film Equilibrium (like I said, this isn’t usually my thing—just the words “YA dystopian” are enough to make me run the other way; I just don’t dig it—so my knowledge isn’t exactly vast.) But I can probably be excused for wondering how something that seems all peaches and cream, everything on the up-and-up on the surface (but really isn’t!) is actually a “dystopia”. Hence why I like mine better. I think it’s more descriptive.
That’s what Glaze is for me: a world close to ours, where something suspicious is layered with excitement and buzz, veiled with a sparkling façade that dazzles and draws the eye away from the main event taking place just off-stage. And I loved it.
Petri Quinn (unfortunately named after the method of her conception—poor kid; heartless mum—which is, in fact, artificial) is almost sixteen. She might be a maths genius and a little bit of an oddball (in fact, Petri cried out Autistic Spectrum Disorder/Asperger’s to me [high-func.], which I really, really loved, more so because it’s all between the lines and never once said), but that’s all been compounded by the introduction of the social network, Glaze, which sees its users hooked up via a simple-to-implant chip that networks you, the user, with the cloud tech of Glaze. It’s fast, snazzy and has more than a few tricks up its sleeve. Everyone wants in—and so does Petri. Who wouldn’t want a hyperactive social life with easy peer-to-peer connection with the people both in your life, and outside it? With content tailored just for you, linking you to precisely what you want, when you want it, and with all the info you might want about pretty much everything in your life, who wouldn’t want in on this super social network?
There are some, but they’re the kinds of people who are probably still afraid of text-messaging, so they’re both largely irrelevant and hardly count at all. And the voices of the few are scarcely heard over the voices of the many.
That’s in part, what draws Petri into trouble in the first place. When a peaceful protest to demand a stronger future, i.e. by fighting the closure of another school, turns violent, somehow Petri finds herself stuck at the centre of it. Caught up in the riot, when things turn ugly, Petri hardly registers the strange way in which her fellow students—all older, and therefore snugly connected to Glaze already; damn her for skipping a year!—suddenly become calm and wait patiently for their names to be taken by the police. If she thinks it’s strange that the company behind Glaze has sent its own security force to help with the riot, it doesn’t hit her until much later. And by then, Petri’s world has been turned upside down and she’s not only toting an illegal chip to access Glaze, but whatever else is happening, is far bigger than she imagined.
Petri is in big trouble.
Before she realises what’s happening, there at the protest-turned-riot are boys with masks on, shaking things up and making trouble. She’s only even there because her big-time crush organised the protest—and who was she to say no to those eyes? (Stupid eyes.) But with one of the boys urging her to run, Petri does, despite calls from the police to stop—after all, Petri’s “unregistered” and viewed as an immediate danger. When the tasers start to fire, Petri is long gone in tow of this golden-eyed boy, leaving the chaos behind her. She’s not unregistered; she’s a minor (technically…), but try telling that to the officer with the taser.
Following this boy leads Petri to safety, but to much more than that. It may not seem so at first, but just following him has introduced Petri to a world she previously knew existed—but only at the very periphery of her middle-class life. With her biggest problem having been not being a month or so older and already being plugged into Glaze, the sudden reality she finds unfolding around her might as well be happening to someone else; it would be easier to grasp, to believe all the madness that way. But no, it’s all happening to her, to Petri Quinn. And what’s more, the whole truth behind the shining façade of Glaze is far, far closer to home than she ever dared to imagine. The blood and violence and horror of everything is close enough to touch.
One moment being on Glaze is what Petri wants the most—the next, all she wants is for Glaze to disappear from her life.
She’d better be careful what she wishes for.
The absolute single thing that threw me at times were a few odd choices of “slang” (“Linking up” instead of “making out” for example, literally had me trying to see where I’d missed the lifesize USB cables. To some I guess it’s “snogging” [never liked that; sounds like hawking something up], but I just say “making out”. This turn of phrase confused the heck out of me!), and this is so minor, I’m really only mentioning it for the har-har value of imagining me thoroughly bamboozled and re-reading this particular paragraph twice to make sense of it.
Glaze is a cleverly-executed novel that showcases Curran’s true talent as a weaver of complex, twisting and slightly left-of-reality modern YA science fiction. It is at once exciting and lively; a true page-turner. Glaze is harsh and stark in the simplest ways, yet it never loses its heart, which is firmly rooted in the curiosity that is social media, social science, and what makes us part (and indeed, want to be part) of the hive-mind. Glaze seems to ask if we can ever be trusted to know just where to stop.
Furthermore, with the sensibilities of social psychology firmly in mind, Glaze suggests that our existence in an increasingly transparent digital fishbowl is a matter of just how deep we let ourselves swim (or sink): Petri maintains a strong sense of individuality throughout, which I think speaks volumes in and of itself.
If you are a fan of the YA dystopian science fiction theme, then you’ll enjoy this. If, like me, you loathe said theme, then you’ll still enjoy this, because there’s something tangible about Glaze that yet remains just beyond reach; something that engages and entertains as easily as it tries to gently, subtly educate. This book is full of real life, full of the tiniest details that make up real people with real lives and real thoughts and feelings. Nothing is shoehorned, nothing is left out. Yet the tapestry is woven so finely that the stitches don’t show; Glaze is a smooth, confident novel that really lights the way for YA modern science fiction to follow. This is how the dystopian/utopian (etc, whatever) subgenre should develop.
Glaze just totally nailed it.