I found this book being promoted on a forum (as in my recent post the author is giving away a huge number of copies of this book) and the product description sounded interesting so I thought I'd give it a go.
Michael O'Connor is a thief who has never needed to find work, having started stealing to support himself in his teens. He specialises in home breaking, and has sucessfully evaded the law, until he robs a man with clout when he is finally arrested and imprisoned. During the course of his sentence however the Supreme Court declare long term prison sentences a cruel and unsual punishment and they are abolished. Instead felons are placed in re-education programmes with a black box and a team of counsellors to teach them the important lessons they missed earlier in life. The book paints a bleak picture of a society in which law abiding citizens live in fear of re-learners as there doesn't appear to be any effective deterrent to prevent crime. Michael however is being put through the wringer in order to graduate and recover his freedom.
The theme of future alternatives to imprisonment is not dissimilar to that of IVRRAC which I read last year, but this story had a darker more sadistic edge. It certainly provides food for thought on contemporary issues such as human rights, privacy and alternatives to the present overloaded prison system.
The book is written from a first person perspective and in parts Michael is addressing the reader directly. It is an effective device as creates a connection with him and it gave those parts even more of an impact. I found myself struggling to figure out how I felt about Michael, who on the one hand had no compunction about breaking into peoples' homes and taking their money and possessions, but who on the other hand was forced by circumstances to support himself from an early age. Within the programme I couldn't decide if he was taking on the challenges in order to change or purely to finish the programme.
I thought this was a clever book with an interesting subject matter. I was totally conflicted as I read it, trying to figure out how I felt about Michael and the new system, which didn't make for a light read but it certainly made me think. I see that as no bad thing. However I did find the end a little disappointing. After so much build up to the final scene and with the revelations made I felt it was a bit rushed and didn't feel quite like it was up to the same standard as the rest of the book. Overall though it was a good thought-provoking read, well edited and a bargain if you were to pay 71p rather than request a free copy.
My Rating: 4*