‘Question Authority’? More like ‘Submit to Authority Without Question’.
Once upon a time, the Flower Children passionately exhorted us to “question authority.” Somewhere along the road to the 21st century however, their mantra transformed into “submit to authority without question.” Carried out to its extreme, the latter philosophy ultimately leads to the tyrannical, dystopian society brilliantly described by author Tracy Lawson in her debut novel, Counteract.
Although classified as YA fiction, Lawson’s fast-paced narrative, well-defined characters, and spine-tingling plot combine for a perfectly paced ride through a world in which rugged individualism, free will, and individual liberty have been all but eradicated by central authorities wielding an agenda of control. And what better way to control the masses than through the installation of irrational fear of an undefined, unseen external enemy?
In the oppressive society of Counteract, the United States as we know it has been fundamentally transformed into a series of quadrants, each run by a government agent known as a “Quadrant Master.” Gone is the rich diversity of 50 states bound together by the United States Constitution. In this freedom-killing society, the President and an oppressive government create a false enemy, followed by a government-created solution. In response to the threat of airborne chemical weapons which may or may not exist, the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense has mandated an antidote to “protect” and “save” the American population.
This final and most insidious step is the last in a series of top-down mandates including the banning of cars (for anyone but government-approved individuals), grocery stores, sporting events, travel and virtually anything that makes life a more rewarding and beautiful experience.
Yet as Lawson proves, there is no antidote or restriction that can fully eviscerate the human spirit. The character development of her two main characters – teenagers Tommy and Careen – dovetails nicely with the plot as they ultimately find each other and begin to unravel the mystery of what’s actually happening versus the propaganda that invades their consciousness on a daily basis through Orwellian-named devices like “PeopleCam.”
In Counteract, Lawson creates a depressing, joyless, and paranoid world but she also provides readers with glimmers of genuine hope in the form of all of the characters that comprise “The Resistance.” Expertly juxtaposing plot and characters, she makes it nearly impossible to put the novel down until the very end — which left me wanting more. Good thing she has a sequel planned for release in early 2015!