Book Review: Defiance by Sarah Jayne Tanner

Book - DefianceDefiance is a book about justice. It’s about standing up for what you believe in, even if it means risking everything. The narrative follows a young man called Noah who makes a living by fighting in a combat club. He lives in the Pit, the poorest area, at the bottom of the city, where it’s hard to find a safe place to sleep and enough food to stay alive. The city contains other levels – through the Cloisters and Arcade to the Spires, where the rich people live, at the very top.   

Noah ends up forced to become a ‘donor’ for Dream Scenarios, a company which provides wealthy people with alternative bodies for a short time, to do whatever they want. It is a strange concept. Noah and his fellow donors are kept locked up, waiting for their next assignment, when they go through a painful procedure to have another person’s mind take over their body, and wake up hours or days later, unaware of what has happened to them, exhausted and unable to escape.

Dream Scenarios sell it as an opportunity for underprivileged people to make a lot of money. But this seems to be no more than a façade. Many donors simply never return, and there are rumours that they are sold on to ‘The Carvers’ when they are no longer profitable, who literally carve up human bodies and sell their organs.

I found it difficult to get into this book at first, partly due to the grammar (which is supposed to indicate Noah’s lack of education) and partly because it begins with a fight scene, in great detail, which didn’t really grip me. It does, however, get a lot better, and the strange grammar fades into the background as the plot gets going.

It is quite an uncomfortable read at some points, where you can really see the similarities between this world and our own. Human trafficking is a massive problem, and yet it is something which is largely ignored by most people. Here is Noah speaking to his handler:

“Why don’t my feelings matter to you?” I ask. “Why don’t you care that most of us don’t wanna be here, that we ain’t here by choice?… What’s broken in your head that you think it’s okay to do this?”

The book is certainly a cautionary tale, and it’s clever to have chosen a male protagonist, as it makes this not just a metaphor for prostitution but for slavery and human trafficking in general. Noah is defiant (hence the title) and attempts to get away, but when he is given the chance to help bring Dream Scenarios down, once and for all, he must decide if it is worth the risk.

Once it gets going, the book is well written, and the plot is clever. The ending is satisfying although it also seems like the author has left a few clues, to indicate that a sequel might be on the way…

If you’re interested in finding out more:

The book seems to have sold out but here is a link to the e-book version which you can still buy on Amazon.

Here is a link which connects with the Red Community blog (a group which raises awareness of human trafficking and works for justice for those involved) and some of the author’s thoughts on how her novel highlights the issue of modern slavery.

Declaration: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.