Future Perfect by Katrina Mountfort, Elsewhen Press, p/b £9.99/Kindle £2.99, Website
Reviewed by Ian Blackwell
This debut novel transported me to a world in the future where things aren’t exactly perfect. This future does promote acceptance and peace, but parts of it they got horribly wrong. The official population of Earth is housed in the major cities which are enclosed in huge bubbles; the name of these places are “Citidomes”. No-one is allowed to leave and anyone caught trying is punished by being imprisoned in an outdoor correction centre. This way of life was instigated by chemical warfare: the launch of missiles from Asia carrying the deadly Thebula Virus to the West, causing the death of missions of people.
These new societies are conditioned not to become attached to each other. Families do not exist and children are not born: they are made from stem cells from donors who meet certain criteria. These criteria include tall height and little body fat; such people are called BodyPerfect. This BodyPerfect cult encourages all citizens to exercise and lose so much weight to the point where they look asexual. Society has been conditioned to believe that they will never be happy until they become a BodyPerfect; so much so that they are willing to even put themselves through dangerous operations to increase their height. It’s fair to say that this so-called beauty is held in the highest regard and nobody can be elite without first becoming a BodyPerfect.
Sex (or “coupling”) is illegal because it spreads the feared TJB virus which symptoms include red “Marks” appearing on the body – most commonly on the face. Such people are removed upon detection immediately by Correction Enforcers. They are never seen again. Anyone who reports anyone with the Mark or coupling gets citizen points as a reward.
The story is told through the eyes of Caia: a young woman who gets a new job as a researcher for the Ministry of Biotechnology. She is too short and not skinny enough to be a BodyPerfect. Caia doesn’t fit in or feel comfortable with this existence. Although there is peace and no social unrest, she feels that something is missing and she longs for whatever it is dearly. She is lost in a passionless place where the only source of history is the vague computer resource called the Knowledge Fountain. She wonders about what life is like outside the Citidomes; rumours of communities of savages surviving out there persist.
Everything changes when Caia meets Mac who, despite the fact that he’s not a BodyPerfect, she finds immensely attractive. Once he trusts she is not as conformed as everyone else, Matt gives her access to an illegal database called the Truth Exchange. It’s on here that she finds out the real history of the Citidomes and why things are the way they are. She learns there’s a world outside the Citidome where people are free to express themselves and live like it used to be. Eventually, Caia and Mac find themselves escaping the Citidome to start a new life where they can live happily together; free to love each other as they see fit. It’s a pity that things don’t turn out to be as simple as that.
I enjoyed reading this modern utopia. It reminds me in some ways of 1984 and Brave New World: a government deciding upon what is “perfect” and forcing society to aspire to those values – even though it means supressing our natural impulses. I found myself willing Caia to realize that her feelings were natural, and I was glad she escaped the artificial world full of meaningless conversations and mind-numbing game shows of humiliation. What I find clever is the way the author showed how Caia responded to things outside the Citidome that we take for granted. Simple things like the cold air or where milk comes from really caught her off-guard. She had never even seen a beard or drank alcohol before! But the most important thing I took away from this novel, which is vital for any utopian storyline, is that I can see many things in the Citidome society that exist in our own today. It makes me question the world around me now, and think nervously about what direction our human race is going. A thought-provoking read that’s the first book in the Blueprint Trilogy; a trilogy that I’ll be keeping an eye out for.