Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bar Code Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn

Summary: The bar code tattoo. Everybody's getting it. It will make your life easier, they say. It will hook you in. It will become your identity. But what if you say no? What if you don't want to become a code? For Kayla, this one choice changes everything. She becomes an outcast in her high school. Dangerous things happen to her family. There's no option but to run...for her life.

My review: Global -1, the new unoffical government is requiring that everyone be tattooed with a special barcode that identifies them. It allows people to buy things, drive, do everything--and NOTHING happens without it. However, Kayla does not want the bar code. It has caused too many problems in her family. Her friends parents lost their jobs because of it and she's discovered something horrible is buried within the code. So, when it becomes illegal to NOT sport one, Kayla runs away hoping to join the resistance. "Bar Code Tattoo" details Kayla's fight, flight, and journey to find the people who believe as she does--that being coded will end the world as they know it.

This book is marketed as a young adult novel. I think it qualifies as such, but it also raises a more adult issues about what we see going on today. Don't worry. I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I just pulled a whole bunch of their fears from this book. Some valid. Some less so.

-the increased globalization of markets and economies
-use of credit and debit cards to track online activities and even locations
-government involvement in every day life and in the economy
-the consequences for not conforming or resisting change
-being deemed "unpatriotic" or "unamerican" when you disagree with the government
-the experimentation with human and animal cloning and genetic enhancements
-the consequences of "food augmentation" and genetically messing with our food supply.
-the cost of sacrificing our civil liberties in the name of security.
-the power and ability of the media to distort the truth in order to sway public opinion

So after I get past all the immediately apparent thematic elements of the plot I can finally relax and enjoy the story. According to the summary, I am going to love this book because it sounds very much like others I have enjoyed. But I can't. In fact, other than remembering all of the above themes, I get so distracted by the end of the book that I have a hard time remembering what was good about it at the beginning.

Here are my three main complaints with this book:
1) The binding had the word "thriller" on it. So, silly me, I expected some. It was a too predictable for me. Things happened a little bit to easily and escapes were a bit too convenient.

2) I had a hard time visualizing how a bunch of kids, raised with all the luxurious benefits of a futuristic society and no apparent special training, manage to survive out in the middle of the woods. Where did they get their food? How did they find their way around? Perhaps there was a survival training course required to graduate...but I highly doubt it.

3) (SPOILER HERE) A genetic code is embedded in the tattoo that tells Global-1 who will be successful in life and who won't. Those that get the short end of the genetic stick get cut off from all resources--a type of enforced genetic exclusion. Near the end of the book, people miraculously start discovering and developing special abilities. Global-1's genetic practices, supposedly, gave those who were excluded immediate heightened abilities in order to survive. I feel that the reasons the author gave for the development of these ESP, healing, and telekinetic powers was weak and unsupported. I know. I know. It's a scifi/fantasy book...I shouldn't expect rational thought processes to apply--but I do. I'd have prefered a bit more believability. It was a risky plot move with too poor an explanation.

All in all I was disappointed. It started out really well and I was interested for quite a while. It had the flavor of so many books that I had savored in the past-- "1984" by George Orwell, "The Giver" by Lois Lowry, and also of the "Uglies" Series by Scott Westerfeld. Unfortunately, each of those books is WORLDS better than this one. *Sniff* It had such potential.
There is a sequel to this book called "Bar Code Rebellion". So it could get better. Perhaps I stopped reading in the middle of the story. Could be. As it stands unless the book shows up at Goodwill or becomes available at the library, I probably won't be reading it.

My rating: 3. (I added a point for serious potential...then deducted it for failing to reach it due in large part to the author's lame convenient explanation of the appearance of special abilities. It irritated me. Oh the power!) This book is a young adult science fiction. The character was 17. I'd probably put the book at a 15 year old level. No real language complaints. There was some alluding to possible sex but you didn't really know if it actually happened or if they just made out REALLY well.

If I could sum this book up in one phrase it would be: A watered down version of Uglies.

1 comment:

Scott Blake said...
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