At The Trough by Adam Knight [Book Review]
I was offered an ARC of At The Trough. It took a bit of getting into, partly because At The Trough swaps between several point of view characters, one per chapter. So it took 2-3 chapters for each character to properly hook me into the story. Once I’d got there it kept me up until 2am on a work night!
At the Trough
At The Trough is a very dystopian near future, a warning of what could happen if the super-rich managed to take control of education. The scenario is close enough to reality that you can see a plausible join into the present. It’s a plausible, if very dark, future. This is part of what made it compelling to me. At the Trough is like Fahrenheit 451 or 1984 – a warning in the present to avoid a future where we don’t realise that we’re all enslaved.
It’s not for the faint hearted. There are some unpleasant events, one of the key characters commits suicide. Another considers it. There’s an exploration of what we classify as mentally ill. How this is subjective rather than objective. The subject matter is breaking out of education, and the book does that too. It’s a pretty realistic and we’ll thought through world. There isn’t really a happy ever after ending.
Emotions on Show
The writing was good, there were a couple of moments of real tension, where I waited for the trap to spring shut. There were moments of pathos, and some subtle telegraphing to the reader while keeping the character unaware.
What I was a little disappointed by was that more could have been made of the world. There were some inconsistencies or unexplained bits. The poorer US people have been captured by corporations, which was reasonable. It was clear that the richer Americans were still living outside the Plex systems. There was some contact with a character in Mexico, but nothing to suggest that the outside world worked differently.
The ending, while not being happy, was rather too cosy. I’m hoping that perhaps there’s a sequel where the heroes go on to do something about the system.