Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Seven Second Delay

Seven Second Delay

Tom Easton
For ages 13 and up
Holiday House, 2015   ISBN: 978-0823432097

Mila grew up on a farm where she and her father did their best to make a living growing a few food crops. She lived in the U (what was once called the EU), where the soil and air had been poisoned by pollution and where hope for the future was almost absent. The situation in the U got worse as Mila got older. Wars destroyed the infrastructure of the countries in the U, and the remaining people, many of whom were refugees like Mila, were exploited by First World companies and governments. After his home was taken from him, Mila’s father got into an altercation with some men and he died of his wounds.

In the city of Kols, Mila met a man called Julian who took her under his wing. He taught her how to survive and how to fight. He taught her skills that she could use to get work, and then he took her with him when he went to the Isles. The plan was to enter the country by crossing on the cables of the bridge across the English Channel.  Julian did not make it, falling to his death, and Mila was taken into custody and sent to a Center.

Now Mila is being interrogated by Agency people but she tells them nothing. She knows that her chances of being given asylum in the Isles are slim, and that she will probably end up being sent to some kind of work facility. Or worse. Mila is resourceful though. She has survived in Centers much nastier than the one she is in now and she looks for the opportunity to escape.

Against her will Mila is fitted with a phone, which is imbedded in her brain. Almost all First-World State Citizens are fitted with such a phone, which allows them to connect and communicate with others without having to hold a device. The phones allow people to share what they are seeing with others, literally, and everything they do or say can be viewed if they choose. Even their thoughts can be read by someone else. In Mila’s case her phone is there so that a handler, a young man called Adam, can watch what she does every minute of the day. She cannot make calls or use any useful apps, and the only concession Adam makes to give Mila a little freedom, is that her Feed is on a seven second delay. Anything Adam sees through Mila’s eyes, through his own brain embedded phone, is viewed seven seconds after real time. The link between Adam and Mila cannot be switched off and she is being Watched by other Agency employees, though at least in their case, they cannot call or text her.

Soon after the phone is installed, Adam discovers that Mila has another device implanted in her brain. She has no idea what the device is, though she suspects it was installed by Julian after she was injured when they were in the U together. The Agency people go crazy when they see the device, thinking that it is a bomb. They waste no time and start evacuating the Center. Though she is being spied upon through her own eyes and is locked up, Mila manages to escape the Center and soon she is on the run being pursued by Agents and drones.

While they were traveling across the U together Julian told Mila a great deal about the Agency and how its people work. He used to work for the Agency and he knows how ruthless and cruel they are. Julian’s stories really do not adequately prepare Mila for the true ruthlessness of her pursuers. They will do anything to capture or kill her. They will even sacrifice their own Citizens to discredit Mila if they have to.

This powerful, often very chilling,  story takes us into a future world where the gap between the haves and the have nots is enormous.  People like Mila, who live in a poor part of the world, have no hope, and often the only thing they can try to do is to sneak into a country where the quality of life is better. As Mila’s story unfolds, we come to appreciate how truly terrible the system is, and we can only hope that Mila, and those who help her, will survive.