Sunday, February 14, 2010

Veracity by Laura Bynum (review)

Veracity by Laura Bynum
Copyright 2010
Pocket Books - Scifi/Dystopian/Futuristic
376 pages

"In a world where critical thinking skills are almost wholly absent, repetition effectively leapfrogs the cognitive portion of the brain. It helps something get processed as truth. We used to call it unsubstantiated buy-in. Belief without evidence. It only works in a society where thinking for one's self is discouraged. That's how we lost our country. And why it's stayed lost for so long."

Harper Adams was six years old when the Pandemic hit. The Confederation of the Willing came into being after the Pandemic devastated the world. Now, the utterance of any of the forbidden words is immediately noted through the chip, or "slate" implanted in each citizen's neck and punishments are severe.

A "sentient", or a person who sees auras, Harper has risen to an important position in the government. When her best friend is killed, Harper makes plans to leave the city, her job, everything she's known. After burning out her slate by uttering forbidden words, she must face the brutal police, known as "Blue Coats", who are sent to stop her. Harper's skills are needed to overthrow the government and bring back the old way of life. But, time is short and the task is daunting. Are there even enough people to start a war? Or will it all be over before it begins?

Oh, where to begin. I enjoyed Veracity on so many levels, but I did have a few quibbles with the storyline. Let's start with what I liked. I liked the description of Harper's special ability to see auras. I had a friend, now deceased, who told me she had seen auras for as long as she could remember. Her description wasn't exactly the same and, if anything, I thought Harper's talents were a bit overblown. But, the way she described seeing colors was similar and the strength of Harper's ability was necessary to the plot.

In general, I loved the storyline and the way the author gradually revealed bits about this new world and how it came into being by smoothly jumping between time periods. There were a few little twisty bits; some I figured out and one I didn't. The fact that I managed to unravel some of the secrets of the Pandemic didn't ruin the book one bit and the single surprise made me laugh. I thought it was a terrific twist.

My biggest problems with the book had to do with the timeline and the world. The Pandemic in this dystopian novel occurred in 2012. I always feel like one of the biggest mistakes -- and the most frequently made -- in futuristic writing is that authors don't shove their timeline far enough into the future. 2012 is just two years from now! When that year passes, the book will have lost its meaning and it's potential to become a classic of science fiction, simply by virtue of the fact that a futuristic fictional event will have been rendered a revision of the past. Date is important. It would have been much more believable, in my opinion, if the inciting incident was set 50 years in the future, rather than 2.

Having said that, I truly enjoyed this book. It's extremely dark; the punishments for even the slightest infractions are shocking -- rape, torture, death. Because of that, I took my time reading Veracity. I can only stand reading about a fictional world that is utterly depressing and horrifying in short bursts. And, yet, I loved the theme of this book: Those who don't think for themselves are easily persuaded to believe what those in power want them to believe, with devastating results.

4.5/5 - A well-crafted world, a strong moral theme and solid writing made this book a winner for me. Half a point off for not setting the dystopian world far enough into the future to be wholly plausible.

Addendum: I asked my 18-year-old what he thinks about setting futuristic sci-fi novels too close to the present. He said he thinks the timeline is irrelevant because, "All futuristic sci-fi eventually becames alternate history." Okay, someone explain to me why that kid has such a lousy grade-point average. He is so not stupid. Maybe he's one of those smart, bored kids? His ACT score would bear that out. Anyway, I thought his thoughts were worth sharing.


  1. I bet it was only set two years in the future because of H1N1. Sounds like a powerful book!

  2. Kathy,

    I'm sure she did, but I still think setting a futuristic novel too close to the current time period is a mistake. My opinion only!! I do understand her reasoning.

  3. Totally agree with you on not setting the book further in the future. Maybe she wanted it to seem more immediate, but if you're going for a future feel, you need to make sure it's not going to seem old hat in two years.

  4. Tammy,

    That's a good point about immediacy. I love this comment:

    ...if you're going for a future feel, you need to make sure it's not going to seem old hat in two years.

    My sentiments exactly.

  5. I had a different quarrel with this one. I didn't like that recurring dream that spun over and over and over. And there was a predictability to he story line near the end, but I think that these are inherent traits for the genres.

    BUT I loved the novel nonetheless.

  6. Well, I'm adding this one to my list. I'm a fan of futuristic and dystopian fiction!

  7. Harry,

    Yes, I didn't care for that repetitive dream, either, but it didn't stick in my memory for long so I guess it didn't bother me too much. There was some predictability. I didn't mind that. I thought the book had a great theme and I liked the way it was presented, so I ended up loving the book. I'm glad you loved it, too!


    Oh, do. I want to hear your thoughts! I hope you like it as much as Harry and I did. It's not a flawless book, but it's thought-provoking.

  8. Ultimately, I do agree completely with you, but these minor deja vu moments I had and my ability to have a very clear prediction what will happen in the end and being right, made me not quite be all hype about it. I admire Bynum's prose and her dystopian world is by far superior than the average, but ultimately I will pretty much forget after awhile I have read the book.

  9. Enjoyed your review!
    Interesting note about the never really bothered me one way or the other if it was set now, then, or in the future. Guess I just take it as part of the story I am reading and the real-life aspects of it get caught up in the wash. The storyline does sound interesting to say the may end up climbing its way into the seek-out list (it'd have to climb, because that list keeps growing and growing). Thanks for sharing....and happy reading! =0)

  10. Harry,

    I can understand that. I think a part of that deja vu bit is that it's very difficult for an author to write a unique novel. Veracity had touches of 1984 and it would have been horrendous if it hadn't ended the way it did -- and she prepared you for a certain outcome -- so it had to be at least a little predictable or it would have been unbearable, IMHO.

    I agree with you that her prose and her dystopian world were much better than average. I'm not parting with my copy, yet. Gotta try to get the kiddo to read it!


    I think I'm turning into a book snob. LOL But, the timeline is something that often bugs me. Of course, there are books that are still relevant despite being dated. Alas, Bablyon is a good example, I think. Even though it's set in the 1950's and the expected apocalypse didn't occur, the book provides an excellent peek into a time that's long gone and the fear of nuclear war that existed at that time.

  11. Eh. Grade point averages exist simply to pack individuals into a controlled hierarchy. It's frustrating. Kiddo is wicked smart! You just have to tap into that thing that successfully piques and retains his interest.

  12. Lisa,

    Thanks. I tend to agree on all counts. Plus, he really needs to learn to organize himself. Teachers love him; one even said he could probably teach her class better than she does (Mythology - he's insane about mythology) but he's such a goofball and I think it's really part, "This place bores me" and part "I Am a Boy Made of Chaos". His dad's chaotic, though, and he managed to get 3 degrees. I think when Kiddo figures out his passion, he'll go far.

  13. This book sounds fantastic. Thanks for the awesome review, and I agree with your son and he's absolutely write. A number of sci-fi novels with dates that have since passed have become alternate history.

  14. Serena,

    I really enjoyed Veracity. My kiddo often has interesting revelations to add. He's as avid a reader as I am (and a speed reader to boot) so we frequently talk books. I love hearing his thoughts!


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