Wednesday, 7 August 2019

The Kingdom

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

The Kingdom™ is a magical place where your dreams can come true, with species brought back from extinction and the most perfect princesses to see to your needs during your stay. Ana is one of seven Fantasists, androids designed to be beautiful and to obey. But when Ana is accused of murdering a park employee, she must go to court to prove she's incapable of moral judgement.

In my Kingdom, Happily Ever After is not just a promise: it's a rule.

I devoured The Kingdom, this Westworld/Disneyland mash-up was just what I needed. It could so easily be twee but Jess Rothenberg has shown the darker side of an entertainment industry, in a page-turning tale.

The narrative switches between the trial transcripts and Ana's life in the park. The trial's purpose is to decide if Owen's murder was the result of a malfunction or if Ana had evolved beyond her programming and committed murder with intent.

Ana is one of the later models, with more advanced AI compared to some of the other Fantasists, who regurgitate on-brand lines, and are less likely to think for themselves. Even under times of stress, Ana's programming returns her to this more simple state, removing her ability to act upon her feelings.

As the story unfolds, it becomes clearer that the Fantasists are controlled through more than just their programming. They are fed lies about the world outside, believing the visitors are there to escape a ravaged land. It's inferred that the investors are using the Fantasists for sex, then their minds are wiped, so they can never speak out.

Anomalies are dangerous. Magic is routine.

I felt a bit sad for the hybrid animals, as one might a sociable creature kept alone in a zoo. I'm not entirely sure why they were part android, part genetically engineered though. Were clones just too unpredictable and android not realistic enough? That doesn't seem right if the Fantasists were as real as humans...

Anyway, I really enjoyed it. It's not anything particularly new but I liked how it was done.

The Kingdom is published by Pan Macmillan and is available now in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publishers for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

In the end, it does not matter what a story is about. It only matters who gets to tell it.

ATY Rejects: Circus/carnival/amusement park setting

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