Dystopian novels are often set in the near future and feature an oppressive alternate universe that extrapolates upon the worst tendencies of contemporary society. If you read Nineteen Eighty-Four, Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451, or The Giver in school, you undoubtedly have a pretty good idea of what dystopian fiction is all about.
These days the genre has been overrun by a stampede of perky YA authors. Never mind dusty tomes like A Clockwork Orange or The Handmaid’s Tale, kids today are reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Legend by Marie Lu, and Delirium by Lauren Oliver. And if they’re hip kids, they’re probably also reading Battle Royale by Koushun Takami.
Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones is a novel that aligns comfortably with this new wave of dystopian fiction. The story’s protagonist is a teenage girl named Ciere Giba, and like Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior, she’s fighting against a brave and horrible new world. This time, however, there’s a twist: superheroes are involved.
Problems arise in 2017 when a new disease called Meningococcas Krinotas shows up in Africa. Within six months the MK plague reaches every corner of the globe and the human race is on its way to extinction. In a word: Yikes!
To the rescue comes a vaccine called Praevenir. It isn’t exactly a cure, but it does provide immunity against MK. Unfortunately (?) there are some side effects. Approximately 0.003 percent of those vaccinated experience superhuman-like powers such as telepathy, perfect recall, increased intuition, levitation, body manipulation, and hypnosis. Our hero, for example, becomes an illusionist—a human chameleon.
So what’s the problem? The MK plague is defeated and a small number of people are now enrolling in Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. That sounds pretty awesome to us.
The problem, however, is this: The vaccine’s side effects could have changed the world for the better. It could have ushered in a new world order—a glorious age of heroes dedicated to solving all of humanity’s problems. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. “Human physiology was altered,” writes the author. “But human nature wasn’t.”
It’s now 2034 and the United States is forcibly “recruiting” an army of overmen. “We stand on the brink of war with several countries,” explains a shadowy government agent. “America’s only advantage over its many enemies is the number of super soldiers it can control.”
From his perspective, the growing number of superhumans creates currency with the government. And to him, that’s good news. But others don’t see it that way. “We’re not people to them,” counters Kit Copperfield, the leader of a small band of super mercenaries. “We’re nothing but tools. Interchangeable human weapons.”
Humanity has always defined itself by its weapons. The Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Atomic Age—we track our progress by how easily we can take another person’s life. Now ask yourself this question: How will historians see this newly emerging generation? The answer according to author Lloyd-Jones is simple. The moment Praevenir was introduced to the population, humanity itself became the weapon. In 20 years we’ll all be living in the Superhuman Age.
[Illusive / By Emily Lloyd-Jones / First Printing: July 2014 / ISBN: 9780316254564]