cover image The Juice

The Juice

Janet Stilson. Dragon Moon, $17.95 trade paper (300p) ISBN 978-1-77400-022-9

Stilson debuts with an energetic vision of a dystopian near-future America, though the high-octane narrative of a corrupt government perpetuating immoral class division is bogged down by a massive cast. As an Elite, hacker Jarat Ellington receives special treatment because of his wealthy family. When Jarat’s best friend, Thom Tseng, is killed and Thom’s invention, Juice, is stolen, Jarat vows to find the killer and recover the Juice, a chemical substance that turns people into Charismites, beings so charming they can persuade others to do anything. Meanwhile, media executive and unscrupulous opportunist Rico Reingold elevates 15-year-old Luscious Melada from the impoverished Chav underclass into an Elite media darling. And when a senator sympathetic to the Chav cause is assassinated, it’s possible Juice will be used to manipulate the populace into voting for a corrupt politician. Stilson creates a chilling world: the government brainwashes its citizens through subliminal messaging, and ubiquitous security cameras eliminate the concept of privacy. Too many characters and plotlines blur the theme, but Jarat’s investigation keeps the pages turning. This cyberpunk adventure delivers plenty of future tech and social commentary to please genre fans. (Feb.)