This post is part of a blog tour organised by Random Things Blog Tours. I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.
‘A catastrophic climate emergency has spawned a one-child policy in the UK, ruthlessly enforced by a totalitarian regime.
‘Compulsory abortion of “excess” pregnancies and mandatory contraceptive implants are now the norm, and families must adhere to strict consumption quotas as the world descends into chaos.
‘Kai is a 25-year-old “baby reaper”, working for the Ministry of Population and Family Planning. If any of her assigned families attempts to exceed their child quota, she ensures they pay the price.
‘Until, one morning, she discovers that an illegal sibling on her Ministry hit-list is hers. And to protect her parents from severe penalties, she must secretly investigate before anyone else finds out.
‘Kai’s hunt for her forbidden sister unearths much more than a dark family secret. As she stumbles across a series of heinous crimes perpetrated by the people she trusted most, she makes a devastating discovery that could bring down the government… and tear her family apart.’
One, by Eve Smith, is set in an all-too-plausible UK of the future, where a climate disaster has irreversibly altered the landscape and created scarcity, and a controlling government strictly enforces a one-child policy through surveillance and technology.
Kai Houghton takes pride in her work bringing non-compliant families into line, as she believes she’s doing it for the greater good. But when she discovers her parents had another daughter who was sent away, everything she thought she knew is thrown into question.
Can Kai keep her investigation into her sister – Senka – hidden from her employers? And will Senka’s story persuade Kai to change sides?
One is an exciting and twisty read. Right from the start, I was pulled into the all-too-plausible vision of the future the author spins up, experiencing both curiosity and horror.
Throughout the book, I could never be quite sure whether Kai would do the right thing, and this, along with the frequent revelations about the regime’s wrongdoings, kept me on the edge of my seat.
As with her previous novel, Off Target, Smith’s worldbuilding is extremely thorough, as she considers the various ways a climate catastrophe would effect the geography of, and daily life in, the UK; how a one-child policy might be enforced in a technologically-advanced dystopia, and the kinds of situations that could arise as a result of it; and how rebellious individuals and groups might go about fighting the system.
At the same time, as with all good speculative fiction, the setting has recognisable features, and there are more than enough links to current concerns that it feels like something that could actually come to pass in the not-too-far future.
As the author herself points out in the end matter, governments telling women what to do with their bodies is nothing new. However, the use of technology to enforce this is already in evidence even now, with warnings not to use period-tracking apps or discuss abortion using unencrypted messaging services, for example.
Climate migrants in One are viewed and treated in much the same way as desperate migrants are today. Places that have been washed away retain their existing names and associations in people’s minds.
Meanwhile, the green energy revolution that’s finally taken place does sound positive – but it would have saved a great deal of loss and change had it been introduced earlier, as a preventative measure.
Something that very much persists in its current form in One is human nature, injecting a sense of hope into this bleak scenario.
There are decent characters who help and care for others, even if it means breaking the rules and putting themselves at risk. Even loyal, diligent Kai’s first reaction to finding out her parents have broken the law is to try to keep them out of trouble.
One is thrilling, comprehensive, and more than a little scary.