Monday, December 3, 2007

Rash

Rashby Pete Hautman
$8.99 at Amazon.com
ISBN: 0689869045
The Department of Homeland Security finally gets its way.
This is an exciting, easy-to-read novel from the Teen section of the bookstore.
The year is 2074, and virtually everything that could be considered a danger to safety is illegal. Guns and alcohol are out. So are chainsaws, large dogs, body piercing, and tattoos. Football and other "violent" sports, boxing, and even running more than 1000 meters at a time are against the law.
Bo Marsten has grown up in a world with laws governing every aspect of peoples' personal behavior. What's more, the state hands out 
draconian penalties for the slightest infractions.
Our story joins Bo as a teenager on his high school track team. Pranks with a rival teammate get very slightly out of hand, and Bo unwittingly causes an outbreak of a strange rash among his classmates. It causes the school only momentary inconvenience, but Bo is given a three-year sentence at the McDonald's Juvenile Correctional Facility, in the harsh Canadian tundra.
It seems excessive, but as it turns out, there's a method behind the madness. Most of the world's manual labor is done by "prisoners" who are essentially slaves of the state. In fact, one quarter of the population is serving hard time for breaking some minor regulation. As his sentence begins, the sixteen-year-old gets his first 
look at the work camps where America's products are made.
The youthful offenders are assigned to make frozen fast-food snacks, and given sixteen hour shifts with only leftover McNuggets for nourishment. The warden could be somewhat politely described as a sadistic monster. 
At first, communication with the outside world is forbidden, as are books and other leisure activities, and the inmates are even forced to wear degrading paper gowns at all times. Escape is impossible: the compound is surrounded by miles of arctic waste and hungry polar bears.
In these hopeless surroundings, Bo becomes a man and learns what 
real freedom is. Prison life is bleak, but soon he can play football with his friends, and no Big Brother supervises his every move.
Bo has a charming Artificial Intelligence sidekick named Bork, and a friendly group of teammates. This is not the Count of Monte Cristo, it's easy to read and short (249 pages); appropriate if you're looking for something light, or for the less-experienced reader.
The satire was obvious, but the action was intense, and the characters sympathetic. I just loved it!

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