The Shining Wall by Melissa Ferguson

‘She loved Mum, but there was only so far love could take you in life.’

In this ruined world, the shining wall protects the haves from the have-nots. Inside the wall, wealthy humans live their long and privileged lives, supported by technology and cloned Neandertals. And by services provided by women living outside the wall.  Outside the wall, in the demi-settlements, where poverty and disease are rampant, people must scavenge for food and other essential supplies.  They also need to avoid the ever-present security forces.  Avoidance is difficult when so much of life is controlled by OmniScreens and implanted microchips.

This is where Alida (aged 17) and Graycie (aged 5) live, with their mother.  Until they are orphaned. Then their already difficult lives become more challenging.  Alida can make money, if she sells her body.  They meet Shuqba, a cloned Neandertal, posted outside the city.  Shuqba is under strict orders, which she struggles to align with her feelings. Shuqba helps Alida and Graycie.

‘Everything was a transaction to them.  If the cost exceeded their benefit, there was no point.’

Graycie becomes ill.  Desperate to save her life, Alida makes a decision which separates them.

I quickly became immersed in the awfulness of this dystopian world.  It’s not hard to imagine a world in which implanted microchips and software controls lives.  It’s not hard to picture a world in which a privileged minority control the majority.  It’s even easier to relate to a world in which a wall divides the haves from the have-nots. But this novel, with its details of everyday life and its descriptions of power struggles makes what should (just) be fiction unsettlingly close. People harvested for organs, women being used to incubate children for the privileged are real, even if cloned Neandertals are not (yet).

‘What were security and comfort if you had no control over your own body?’

For me, this was a story that I could not put down.  I wanted to know how it would end.  I wanted …

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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