I was prepared to enjoy 84K. It had come highly recommended from someone whose recommendations are always on point. But what I wasn’t prepared for was how cleverly written, how engaging, and how much I’d love it.
What if your life were defined by a number?
What if any crime could be committed without punishment, so long as you could afford to pay the fee assigned to that crime?
Theo works in the Criminal Audit Office. He assesses each crime that crosses his desk and makes sure the correct debt to society is paid in full.
But when Theo’s ex-lover Dani is killed, it’s different. This is one death he can’t let become merely an entry on a balance sheet.
Because when the richest in the world are getting away with murder, sometimes the numbers just don’t add up.
I knew I’d be blown away by North’s world building – by the concept of the Criminal Audit Office and the ways society is further breaking down. What can I say, I’m an intense nerd. But what I didn’t really anticipate was how much Theo would resonate with me. Just how much his plight, his struggles, his motivations would move me.
There’s an element of mystery to this book even after you’re finished. For the beginning I was out of my depths. 84K has such a clever writing style which mixes different timelines (memories, the present, further back memories), different speakers, and punctuation. Not only that, but you’re not really sure what happened. There are details of the present and you wonder, “how did this come to pass?” But North doesn’t hold your hand. Sure there are times when the world is revealed to you: when the awful pieces of society are filtered to you or when you realize how the rich can just get away with murder.
It felt organic. The entire book felt like actually spending time in Theo’s head, in Theo’s world. In some ways, we don’t have a guide, a mysterious narrator who takes the time to explain every little thing to us, it’s like growing up really. And it’s just so real. I felt like I was experiencing these memories, these fragmented pieces of the past flying by me. The past informs present, meshes together, like the whirring of our mind, blurring together until we cannot distinguish where our feet are. One thing I particularly liked about the lack of punctuation was that it made the reading hazy and immersive, like they’re our own memories fading together in black and white like they’re our broken photo albums.
But, as I said before, Theo took me by storm. He’s an everyman. He never stays longer, never draws attention to himself, and he has never really felt like he had to act. Which is totally different than I am. But there’s something about Theo. Maybe it’s what causes him to act, or maybe it’s the way he acts, but Theo made his way into my heart. At the heart of Theo is the recognition of a moment when we are moved to action, when it’s time to take a stand, startled out of our apathy. And I think I could relate to that a lot.
He’s made a lot of mistakes , can be downright despicable, but he’s trying hard and he’s so far from the typical heroes you read about. He fares much like we might, not me, but like one could who is shocked out of apathy by circumstance and forced on the run for his life. He’s not equipped, he isn’t an expert fighter, but he’s driven by having nothing else really to lose even if he didn’t know the stakes of his life before.
84K has a genuine humor to the flashes of darkness, like blazing stars dying in the universe. We see glimpses behind people’s masks, fragments of memories and thoughts. What I love reading about in these kind of pot-apocalyptic books is a motivation to forge a new word for our kin or the future: to bathe in it’s blood and explosions for the sake of a better future. The plot starts to come together and it leaves you with this feeling of awe. There are moments that really resonate, that not only tug at your heart, but recognize what we could be brought to do. Make sure to check out 84K on Goodreads.
What was the last SF book you read?
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