*I received a free ebook of this novel via Instafreebie. My opinions are my own.*
Blurb: In a world of interchangeable organs, will Daniel find his missing pieces and become whole again?
After starving in the gutter, Daniel’s life in the orphanage seemed too good to be true. A warm bed, Law and Order reruns, and all the Mopane worm sushi he could eat. Daniel was happy … Until the orphanage stole his parts and sold them on the organ market.
Now Daniel has grown up, and yearns to become whole again. The cybernetic organ replacements just aren’t the same – he needs his parts back. But the new owners of his organs won’t give them up. Not without a fight.
Just how far will Daniel go to regain his missing pieces? And how much more of himself will he lose along the way?
I should not have liked this book, but I absolutely did.
This is hard and dark dystopian sci-fi. There is graphic violence, murder, torture, strong language and some sexual content. But the plot and characterisation are strong enough to carry all of the above in context and keep you completely hooked on Daniel and his mission.
Daniel himself is a complex character. He is our main protagonist, but has issues with rage and abandonment, and sometimes makes morally dubious decisions. In other words, he is a real person. This helps carry the reader along, as the technology integral to the plot is fantastical (although not impossible, or even improbable, for the future). This is a future dystopian where organs and limbs can be transplanted as easily as getting new dentures or glasses. A world where bright green Rejek (to prevent organ rejection during transplant) can be bought over the counter, along with antibiotics. Where wearing glasses provides you with a constant stream of information about the world around you, including incessant context-specific adverts for products and services. Where different realities can be perceived by adjusting the frequency on your glasses.
Jason Werbeloff has created two distinct social strata in the world of this novel and the distinctions are not subtle. Those in the Gutter are treated as disposable organ banks, and used for both regular and torture porn. Worse than slaves, they have no human rights at all. They are objects to be harvested for any drop of value then thoughtlessly discarded. In fact they are less than objects, because Bubbler robots can buy Gutter organs to ‘become human’. Daniel lives in the Gutter.
Those in the Bubble are privileged from birth. If a Bubbler gets an inconvenient cough then they get a fresh, clean Gutter-lung. If a Bubbler gets off on violence to children then *Trigger warning* they get a Gutter child, a choice of implements and a soundproof room, with or without anaesthetic (I did mention the graphic violence earlier). There are a lot of ethical issues here, obviously, and the society depicted in the Bubble filled me with sick rage as a reader.
These horrors are not depicted lightly, but dispassionately balanced between Daniel’s rage at his abuse in the Gutter, and wonder at the luxuries of Bubbler life, and Bubbler detective Kage Jackson’s general acceptance of the status quo (if distate at some of the gorier aspects).
Kage brings in a new viewpoint as our secondary protagonist, and despite his receipt of Gutter organs to facilitate his transition he is still a sympathetic character, which creates a central tension conflict when his aims are placed head-to-head with Daniel’s. Both are in pursuit of their own private goals, rather than a more heroic or noble crusade, at this point in the series anyway. Kage wants his identity to be taken seriously and to finally feel like he belongs in his body. Daniel wants his organs back. Because he feels that only the organs he was born with can make him whole again. Make him him again.
This is the root of the story, beneath the grime and Rejek and mindless consumerism: a search for the self. I will definitely be reading more as I need to know whether Daniel gets, if not his parts, at least some form of justice and/or peace. This is a disturbing read, that will haunt you long after, but I am still recommending it!
The first organ Daniel scrubbed was a kidney. Easy organs, those. Plug in the renal artery, and you’re good to go. If the kidney worked right, you’d have green piss running out of the ureter in no time.
– Jason Werbeloff, Defragmenting Daniel: The Organ Scrubber