Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Beneath the Shine

Beneath the Shine

Sarah Fine
For ages 13 and up
Unabridged audiobook (MP3 CD)
Performed/read by: Lauren Ezzo and Noah Berman
Brilliance Audio, 2017   ISBN: 978-1536655407

For centuries humans developed new technologies to make their lives easier. Sometimes these technologies had undesirable ‘side effects.’ For example, as a result of the industrial revolution, children worked in factories, the air was polluted by factory chimneys, and countless people were injured by the machines that they worked on.

Some years ago technology companies created cannies, “walking, talking, thinking automatons,” which were going to make life better for everyone. What happened instead was that the cannies took away people’s jobs, and the subsidies that the government gave the unemployed were completely inadequate. The millions of unemployed Americans got poorer, and the people who worked in the technology fields, the technocrats, got richer.

Marguerite’s father was a teacher and he was excited when he was told that AI technology was going to be brought to his school. Surely the AI would make it easier for him to teach his students. What happened was that he was replaced by the AI and made redundant. Losing his job, and any prospect of a future position, so undermined his belief in himself and his country that he committed suicide.

Marguerite responded to her terrible loss by posting a video online. It was a painful plea for someone to finally acknowledge what the technocrats and President were doing to the country. Marguerite’s video so impressed Wynn Sallese, one of the presidential candidates, that he invited her to join his team and she became the face of his campaign. In the end Sallese won and now he has to follow through on his campaign promises. New legislation is needed to restrict the use of cannies, and more Americans need to be able to get access to Cerepins, expensive devices that allow people to connect to the Mainstream (the Internet) whenever they wish. The gap between the haves and have nots has to be narrowed.

When the new president comes to Washington D.C he brings Marguerite and her mother with him. He still wants Marguerite to help him get support for his policies. Marguerite believes in President Sallese so she is happy to help him, but being in Washington D.C, and attending a school full of technocrat kids is another matter altogether.

On her very first day of school Marguerite is badly bullied by the spoiled, privileged teenagers who have no idea how desperately poor millions of Americans are. However, there are a few of them who stand up for her, even though they all feel threatened by the president. The technocrats worry that he will take away the way of life that they value; that he will ‘punish’ them for their successes and wealth.

When a government building is blown up by a bomb and dozens of people are killed, the situation in the city becomes even more volatile, and when Marguerite finds out that some of her classmates are being rounded up, and even killed, she does not know what to think.

One of her classmates is Percy, a young man who has created a fashion video blog that is hugely popular. He comes across as being vapid, self-absorbed, and shallow, but underneath he is a very different person. When he was a child, Percy’s parents were killed and he is convinced that they were murdered. He is determined to find out what really happened to them and has allied himself with an underground movement that is fighting back against corrupt politics. When he realizes that his classmates and their families are being disappeared, he starts to work with his secretive friends to smuggle the technocrats out of Washington D.C. He hopes that the protection his aunt offers through her work in the French embassy will protect him from the authorities.

As Percy helps more and more people escape, and as Marguerite finds out that the people she trusted are not what they seem, the stories of the two young people begin to merge.

Told from the point of view of both Margurite and Percy, this often chilling tale explores how technology might become a force for evil if we are not careful. We see how young people take the initiative when they see that their adult political leaders are doing things that will surely destroy what little democracy is left in the country.

Based loosely on the story The Scarlet Pimpernel, Beneath the Shine gives listeners an exciting tale that entertains, and that also presents ideas that we all need to consider and think about.