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Reviewed by Keyla Damaer for Readers' Favorite
Disquieting. Suffocating. Distressing. In The State by Sean K. Vlk, the State controls everyone and everything. Citizens are only supposed to serve and obey. Agent 216 was raised by the State and owes everything he has to the State. But what is that if not utter emptiness? Are a lavish apartment and plenty of food to eat, when most of the population lives on rations, enough to escape from the solitude everyone lives in? He has no doubts about that until the Resistance kidnaps him. The struggle during his days as a captive is strong, but in the end, the Resistance gives Agent 216 what the State always denied him: love, compassion, companionship, a sense of community and belonging. And no one could refuse such an offer, given for free and without demanding anything in return. In time, Agent 216 becomes an individual instead of being an appendage of the State and the Resistance grows with him and under his guidance. And that’s when things get interesting.
Is it going to end well, I asked myself. I had to read to the end of this explosive story to find out. And I wasn’t disappointed. Agent 216 reminds me of Winston Smith, and I’m sure the author was influenced by 1984 when writing this wonderful dystopian novel. And in some aspects, it’s even better than 1984. Here, the main character doesn’t even have the luxury of a name. He’s only a number but it doesn’t bother him just as it doesn’t bother any of his colleagues. They don’t know any better. Individuality is annihilated and ostracized in all possible ways and violence is just a means to an end. This is not easy reading and even if I liked it as much as I liked Orwell’s masterpiece, I had to take it in little doses. Definitely not for the fainthearted. Vlk’s characters seem real, even too much sometimes, but they’re always fleshed out beautifully. The State is an addition to the good dystopian novels I have read this year.