Review by Shelley
TITLE: Zero Hour: A Dystopian Adventure
AUTHOR: Jordan Castillo Price
BLURB: Ernest just turned thirty. It’s time for retirement, freedom from the tedious drudgery of his job as a data clerk. Time to explore parts of the city he’s never seen before, and hopefully meet some actual people. And at the end of the month? Time to die.
Will runs the counter at the historic coffee shop, and when he talks, he sounds just like an old-time data feed. Tongues are for talking, and Will’s got plenty to say. He’s nothing like anyone Ernest has ever met—though unfortunately that’s not saying much, since most of Ernest’s interaction to date has been with his artificial intelligence, L0U15E.
Ernest wants to believe Will’s radical notions, but what if Will is just working some angle to take advantage of him? Although he’s old enough to qualify for the senior discount at the VR Palace, Ernest finds his interactions with Will leave him feeling painfully naive.
Can you imagine what life could be like 300 years in the future?
Well, Jordan Castillo Price can, and it’s truly something to behold.
JCP has delivered a fantastic Dystopian adventure driven by world-building and powered by great characterisation. She sets everything up so carefully and without complication. There is no information overload to befuddle the mind (thankfully) as you slowly discover this futuristicworld bit by bit.
The story begins when Ernest hasreached the end of his time; he’s thirty years old and living his last 30 days of retirement; after which, he will walk into “reclaim” where (he thinks) he will claim his ultimate reward and his spirit will move on – Pah! Yeah right … if you believe 30 years of brain-washing indoctrination hatched up by a bunch of crooked greedy gits – unfortunately … Ernest does.
“Hell of a fucking life, though. Grow you in a vat, use you up and throw you away.”
Ernest walks into an antiquated coffee shop and is met by ill, a real life person; not an AI ready to scan his profile in order to determine his preference. Ernest is innocent and naïve to social interaction (having lived in an artificial intelligence POD his whole life) and is immediately fascinated with Will and the things he finds in his shop – relying on his knowledge of “old-time feeds” (aka movies) to orient himself, and the reader.
Ernest’s PoV is just too adorable in a gullible childlike way, trying to parse (understand) his surroundings and Will’s mannerisms, expressions, his speech and idioms – oh my … what fun you will have with Ernest trying to parse the idioms.
It’s all so exotic to Ernest and he is captivated. Crickey! I am captivated! This is the part where I clutched the kindle to my chest and twirled with joy over the emotions I felt. I love this.
I guarantee you will love Ernest, his naïve honesty and curiosity is just so flippin cute and refreshing. I adore his character and I love the incredible way JCP integrated it with us learning more about his world, while he learns about ours. It’s like being reborn and experiencing it all for the first time. This is what the author excels at: deep and meaningful characterisation that gets under your skin and makes you feel. Damn, she’s good at this.
Moving on to Will: I liked Will who is wise to the ways of his world – he’s been around longer. He see’s something special in Ernest (I think) he recognises a potential and takes it upon himself to show Ernest of the true ways of the world – the old ways; feeding his curiosity and giving him a real “taste” for life.
But does Ernest believe and trust in Will to risk losing his soul forever? Or will he claim his reward when time runs out?
There are many special noteworthy moments in this book which offers the reader so much enjoyment. It is a perfect blend of action, romance, heartache, angst and adventure. I never expected it to be so good, but Jordan Castillo Price has wowed me once again and wins a place in my favourite author shelf.
The only thing I wasn’t completely sold was Will’s initial attraction to Ernest – was Ernest simply filler? Someone in the right place at the right time? When Will had failed at one undertaking he sees Ernest as a second chance perhaps? Nevertheless, his ultimately strong feeling for Ernest shines through.
I also felt the story dragged a little, but never enough to divert me. I wanted the story to be longer, I wanted more background on the side characters and I was curious to see the sexual side of their relationship develop more ie: I want full on sex! Even though what I got was special in its way: tender, loving and very satisfying.
A sequel would be lovely, or perhaps a novella? A short story?A haiku?I’m not ready to let go of this story and especially Ernest.
Great job Ms. Price!
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