Really good story of an oppressive social system

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plappen's review of Broken Slate, Kelly Jennings

★★★★☆
Broken Slate, Kelly Jennings

“Really good story of an oppressive social system”

Written on: 21/10/2012 by plappen (86 reviews written)

Broken Slate, Kelly Jennings, 2011, ISBN 9781461074502

This novel is about a brutal, planet-wide system of slavery. It's also about one person's attempt to push back.

Martin Eduardo was taken off his family's merchant spaceship in his mid-teens. He was put into the contract labor system on the planet Julian, where he has spent the other half of his life (perhaps "contract labor" sounds a little less awful than "slave," but it amounts to the same thing). Among the first things a contract laborer, or "cot," learns is Do Not Fight Back. Any attempt at talking back to your contract holder, or trying to stand up for yourself, leads to an automatic beating. Any attempt to run away is complicated by the computer chip implanted in each cot's shoulder bone, which makes tracking easy. It also leads to a very public murder, in front of the other cots. Also, all cots are assumed to be lazy and lying, even when they are telling the truth.

Martin's contract has been sold six times in the past. He has a decent, but very precarious, relationship with Lord Strauss, his seventh Holder. Strauss is a lecturer at the local university, and finds that Martin actually has a brain, and knows how to use it. A number of times, Martin has sat outside classrooms, listening to the lectures. Strauss has Martin run some of his classes, which does not go over well with the other students. Martin is also kept around for other tasks, which take place in the bedroom, and behind closed doors.

A cot rebellion is brewing in the hills, but it's only a little more than rumors. As it begins to gain monentum, Martin has some serious deciding to do. He is very aware of the penalty for disobedience, but the penalty for obedience may be even higher. Does Martin get his chip removed, and join the rebellion?

This is a really good story about an oppressive social system. The author has also left room for a sequel. It will keep the reader interested, and, yes, it is well worth reading.

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