Book Review: The Word by J L George

Book - The Word by J L GeorgeThe Word is a compelling dystopian novel, set in a future that feels unnervingly familiar. It follows the stories of five youngsters born with supernatural powers: they can compel others to obey their commands. This strange plot device could have felt gimmicky, but J L George succeeds in creating a world that is believable, and particularly unsettling as a result. It’s also an emotional rollercoaster, and a gripping read. I read the book in just two sittings.   

The novel follows several interlinked narratives, set in two distinct time periods: ‘then’ and ‘now’. ‘Then’ feels disturbingly similar to our current world, with just a little more paranoia, a little more right-wing propaganda and fake news. There are familiar brand names: Lidl and Primark, and Cadburys chocolate, and visits to the British Museum. There’s a rather quaint religious cult, a group of people who seem caring and harmless. There’s also racism, and nationalism, and poverty – all very reminiscent of our own tumultuous present. And a fear of the potential harm that can result from the over-use of technology.

We meet Irena, a young pregnant Polish woman who is struggling to make ends meet. She accepts help from a couple who belong to the new religious sect. They appear to be very generous with their time and money, but Irena begins to suspect that another motivation may lie behind their kindness, as they become more and more obsessed with her unborn child.

We also meet May, a young deaf woman who is determined to teach youngsters like herself, to give them the very best start in life. That is, until she is offered a new job by people from The Centre, who won’t take no for an answer.

Meanwhile, in ‘Now’ we meet the youngsters at The Centre, where the staff wear ear plugs to ensure the kids can’t use ‘The Word’ against them. They are treated fairly well, though they’re not allowed out very often. It’s only when the staff invite them to take part in some rather odd experiments, that they begin to wonder where all of this is leading. As the experiments get more and more unnerving, the teens decide to escape…

The entire book is based around a society of misinformation and distrust, fake news and corporate persuasion. So, although the characters believe that technology is harmful, that computers emit radiation, and various other facts and fears, we never find out whether this is true, or just another part of the Big-Brother style government control.

This novel is not only an engaging, emotional read. It’s also extremely unsettling. If you enjoyed reading The Handmaid’s Tale, then you’ll find this book equally compelling.

The Word by J L George is published by New Welsh Review.

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

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