Fiction - Science Fiction
42 Pages
Reviewed on 03/18/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

In 12-30 by Kerry Lee, set in 2222, "12-30" is confined to a hospital ward under the watchful eye of Adam, his smartphone caretaker. He discovers he has been hospitalized for a century and faces another hundred years under strict supervision by Commander Dolly. Treatment involves energy exchange and meditation facilitated by Infotower. 12-30's accidental breach of protocol raises questions about surveillance, while his desire for emotional connection with Adam reveals his human past. Despite warnings, 12-30 persists in challenging the rules, prompting concerns for his safety and his future, and has difficult conversations with Adam and Dolly about a longing for understanding and potential transformation without being terrified of consequences. The story tackles themes of identity, curiosity, and the consequences of societal control.

Kerry Lee's 12-30 is a unique look into the ramifications of advanced technology on society, offering a thoughtful exploration of ethical dilemmas, speculative world-building, and character development. Through 12-30's journey, Lee probes the unsettling implications of memory erasure as a means of control in an eerily believable breaking of the balance between individual autonomy and societal order. Lee constructs a fantastically imagined futuristic world in a compact story, where technology dictates not only the characters' actions but also their very identities, blurring the lines between humanity and machinery. I loved the questions raised over free will and self-discovery. I found that the novel moves past the sci-fi trappings of longer novels and still gives us better insights into the nature of human agency and the pursuit of personal autonomy in the shadow of technological advancement. Very highly recommended.

Pikasho Deka

In 12-30, a science fiction short story by Kerry Lee, it's New Year's Day in the year 2222. On the anniversary of a hundred years of being kept in a single ward of the hospital, 12-30 -- a human -- feels an undeniable urge to look behind the curtains, which is strictly prohibited. A smartphone named Adam is a medical assistant. Adam supervises 12-30's behavior along with Commander Dolly. As 12-30 becomes more and more curious about his past and what lies behind the curtains, he risks a complete erasure of his memories as well as subjecting himself to another three hundred years of treatment. However, he strikes up a burgeoning bond with Adam, who begins to show real emotions. Will 12-30 be able to learn about his past and find his way to freedom?

Succinct and emotionally stirring, 12-30 is a moving tale of self-discovery. Author Kerry Lee finds a way to incorporate poignant philosophical discourse into this succinct story that makes you wonder what it truly means to be human. I found it immensely impressive how much Kerry packs into this tale. There are only three characters, each of whom has a distinct personality and their own agency that drives their actions and motives. I loved the dynamic between 12-30 and Adam. As the narrative unfolds to reveal their backstories bit by bit, you can't help but sympathize with their plight and root for them to make it out of their situations. If you're a fan of dystopian tales featuring artificial intelligence, this will be right up your alley.

Rich Follett

It is the year 2222, and human life has been extended beyond all known boundaries. Humans who commit significant crimes or who threaten the powers that be are transferred into smartphones and relegated to mundane, emotionless positions of servitude and/or supervision. Those with the potential to be rehabilitated are placed in treatment programs. 12-30 is a human who has been in “treatment” for 100 years, with mixed success. As his innate curiosity emerges anew in his nondescript room in the ward of his treatment center, he begins to ask questions of Adam, his human-turned-smartphone medical assistant, and Commander Dolly, the emotionless smartphone in charge of supervising the ward in which 12-30 undergoes his treatment. It all begins with an accidental parting of the curtains in his room as 12-30 fans himself to cool his overstimulated system after meditation time. 12-30 starts to ask probing questions, and the whole dystopian system of rigid rules and authoritarian oppression begins to unravel.

Kerry Lee’s 12-30 is an insightful dystopian cautionary tale in novella form. Written in spare language as unyielding as the system in which the human 12-30 ekes out his mundane days, the story makes the salient point that the seeds for its dystopian world have already been planted in our place and time. A viral pandemic precipitated the sterile world in which 12-30 lives. The world of 12-30 is the culmination of centuries of governmental shortsightedness and fear-based policies, the beginnings of which are unfolding in present-day life on Earth. Kerry Lee’s vision is dangerously close to coming true right here, right now, and 12-30’s message is clear: the world needs to wake up and reverse course before it is too late.

Kathi Nidd

It's New Year's Day 2222 and 12-30, a human, is greeted by their Guardian, Adam. Adam is a smartphone and he and 12-30 have been living in a barren room for one hundred years today. In another one hundred years, 12-30 will be discharged from the bleak hospital ward. Their days consist of hooking up to meditation and supplements, sleeping, and living under the direction of the strict Commander Dolly, a second smartphone, higher in rank than Adam. Unable to remember why or how they got there, 12-30 lives a strict life of following rules until they notice the air is colder by the green curtains they are forbidden to open. Kerry Lee's novel, 12-30, follows the character's life over the next week as they begin to question what may be beyond the curtains, where Adam and Dolly came from, and 12-30's own unknown past and future.

In 12-30, author Kerry Lee has created a well-written and intriguing examination of the human spirit. As I witnessed 12-30's curiosity and ethical dilemmas around breaking the rules, I was compelled to root for them and their smartphone counterpart. Despite their barren existence and some characters existing in non-human form, the characters all provide a level of relatable depth and empathy, leading to unexpected and heartwarming conclusions. Lee also carefully intertwines social issues such as technology, punishment, feminism, and the environment into the story in a natural and thought-provoking way. Lee's 12-30 is a great read, tempting, and with enough suspense to make it difficult to put down.

Luwi Nyakansaila

Kerry Lee's 12-30 follows a man named 12-30 undergoing unusual treatment in a mysterious hospital. He is instructed not to open the curtains, look through the window, or leave his room. The procedure aims to clear his memories, and his companion, Adam, a smartphone, helps him with meditation and information. However, 12-30 becomes curious and starts asking questions about the procedure, its duration, and who Adam is. Through his interactions with Adam, he discovers shocking truths about why the hospital exists. He is haunted by vivid dreams and wants to find his own path.

Kerry Lee's fascinating science fiction story has a thought-provoking premise. The idea of humans being confined for hundreds of years to erase their thoughts and being turned into Artificial Intelligence is intriguing. The author's core message is the power of memories and how they shape us. The story also explores themes of hope, self-discovery, and pursuing one's desires. The resilience and fearlessness required to break out of a planned routine and discover what lies beyond the unknown is impressive. Although it is a short tale, it has so many layers that will make you reflect on your circumstances. Kerry Lee uses a journal format to narrate 12-30, which allows readers to have a more intimate and personal connection with the character and his thoughts. The story also touches on the death penalty and manipulation and control by powerful corporations. I enjoyed this story and hope to read more from this author because 12-30 is truly unique and creative.