Review: Hostile Takeover

November 29, 2013 at 12:31 pm (science fiction, space opera)

Hostile Takeover
Hostile Takeover by Susan Shwartz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wanted to like this book more, but the future world portrayed by Shwartz pissed me off so much that I had to set it aside repeatedly so I could cool off.

It’s actually a typical extrapolation-from-the-present near-future SF world, in which financial-services veteran Shwartz contemplates what would happen if the whole world were dominated by that industry. More than it is now, that is. So much so that people are divided into three classes: the poor, stuffed into crime-ridden crowded “insulae” with only the thinnest thread of hope of escape; the wealthy, insulated from (but not immune to) financial risk; and the middle class, who live in fear of losing a job, falling into debt, and being shipped off to the asteroidal colonies in cryogenic suspension and to indentured servitude (or even involuntary organ donation).

The protagonist, CC, escaped from poverty into the middle class and lives in that fear (waking up multiple a week in sweating, terrified nightmares). The inevitable result of these circumstances, in which even a brilliant and creative analyst like CC could easily wind up on the garbage heap, is that the middle class salarymen behave pretty much like ferrets tied up in a sack. Apparently they are not really paid all that well, making it very hard for them to stay out of debt (and unable to save up for large expenses?), their credit ratings are monitored constantly for imprudent discretionary spending, and their behavior is expected to fall within rigid but unwritten lines at all times. Otherwise they get “downchecked” and if their fiscal and social credit ratings get too low, they’ll suddenly become unemployable.

As I said, terrifying and infuriating. Shwartz makes CC’s terror and determination very real – as well as her intelligence and serious research addiction (which endeared her to me considerably, of course).

The plot revolves around CC’s audit of questionable activities at Vesta Colony, various attempted murders of CC, and eventual discoveries that were great to read but don’t add much to the spectrum of SF ideas. It’s the setting that does that.

Pay no attention to the cover, by the way. It should’ve been a representation of CC’s 3D data matrix, not a ridiculous intimation of physical combat that didn’t happen.

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