The Switch. Book Review

THE SWITCH by Justina Robson
Gollancz, p/b, 400pp, £16.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins

Nico Perseid faces the judge and awaits his verdict. Accused of murdering Dashain VanSant, the penalty is death. Now, he wishes he had killed VanSant. Given the chance, he would have. Fitted with a rare and illegal wetware, at a price that will become more terrible than he can realise, Nico is left wondering whether it will save him now.

Twostar is a genius and she has always been by Nico’s side, ever since they were youngsters at the orphanage. Together they fled, he the brawn with heightened physical skills, she the intelligence, and found a life together. A life which is now threatened. When the gloves come off, there are no rules, and Nico may just have the chance to pay Two back for all she has done.

The Switch follows Nico’s story from facing his execution and back through how he got there, and along the way questioning his origin: in a world where beings are engineered and homosexuality is considered a flaw, how was Nico created and why?

Homosexuality and its acceptance in what is a rigid, controlling, and alleged perfect society is the central theme here, with Nico and Twostar both being homosexual and thus outcasts as a result. Two takes a much smaller role in the story with it all being narrated from Nico’s point of view, albeit his first person is a little too broad at times — but perhaps that was an intentional move by the author to solidify him as a being somewhat more than human?

The story itself is a simple premise but complex in its depiction and unfortunately a bit disjointed at times. It requires definite concentration and a dedicated reader – anything less than full immersion will not do – and will be rewarding to those who connect with it on that level.