I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Proxy by Alex London
Series: Proxy #1
Published by Philomel Books on June 18th 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Sci-Fi, Thriller/Suspense, Young Adult
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Knox was born into one of the City’s wealthiest families. A Patron, he has everything a boy could possibly want—the latest tech, the coolest clothes, and a Proxy to take all his punishments. When Knox breaks a vase, Syd is beaten. When Knox plays a practical joke, Syd is forced to haul rocks. And when Knox crashes a car, killing one of his friends, Syd is branded and sentenced to death.
Syd is a Proxy. His life is not his own.
Then again, neither is Knox’s. Knox and Syd have more in common than either would guess. So when Knox and Syd realize that the only way to beat the system is to save each other, they flee. Yet Knox’s father is no ordinary Patron, and Syd is no ordinary Proxy. The ensuing cross-country chase will uncover a secret society of rebels, test both boys’ resolve, and shine a blinding light onto a world of those who owe and those who pay. Some debts, it turns out, cannot be repaid.
Awhile ago, Proxy briefly floated across my radar and the premise sounded promising (plus yay for gay MCs!) but I didn’t really have any grand expectations or insane drive to get it right away, more like passing curiosity. So when I had a chance to read it, I thought to myself ‘Hmm, I recall this seemed rather interesting, why not?’ What a wonderful impulse that turned out to be. Proxy was an intense, action-packed ride from the first chapter right up to the last page.
While neatly avoiding info-dumps, Alex London has created a creepy and completely plausible future dystopia with a sharp divide between social classes. Each Patron, the members of the wealthy upper class, have everything including a Proxy from the lower class to take the punishment for infraction they incur. Punishments range from enforced labor to severe beatings and the system is upheld by inescapable credit debt incurred from birth for all but those rich enough to buy their way out of it.
I quite liked the world-building. There’s so many little details packed into this book, I kept picturing a more citified version of Borderlands or a more socially divided version of Dredd (the movie, I haven’t read the comics.) According to Proxy, our future is capitalism run mad. Citizens are constantly tracked by corporations, followed by holographic advertisements, personally tailored to them from reading their biotech, data coded directly into the bloodstream (you know this will happen as soon as someone figures out how, we’re halfway there with Google Glass).
At first I was a little skeptical of the Proxy system. It seemed sort of pointlessly cruel. Without any real consequences, society seems to be expecting people’s better natures to just come out and for them to want to curb their behavior to save someone they’ve never met, and is only real to them in an abstract sense, pain and discomfort. As the state of current social issues show us, this is not a reliable assumption. However, it quickly becomes apparent that the system itself is only really there to keep the poor down and the rich on top and in that sense it works marvelously.
The story opens with Knox, a stereotypical arrogant jackass with money and daddy issues, cavalierly risking his life, along with the life of a random girl whose name he can’t even bother to remember, for the thrill of it and the chance to piss off his neglectful, high-ranking executive father. No thought to the boy who’s had to bear the brunt of his misdeeds since he was four. It seems like fairly standard stock character stuff right? (Maybe not the Proxy bit, but the rest.) I thought so at first as well. I couldn’t stand Knox for the longest time, he’s obnoxious and selfish and it drove me up the wall. But about halfway through, a curious thing happened, I realized the asshole had grown on me at some point and I’d actually come to like him. Knox definitely comes the furthest as a character, both in the book and in my mind and his arc is subtle and well written, never feeling entirely unbelievable although sometimes maybe a bit abrupt.
Syd, Knox’s Proxy, is a hacker with a soft spot for desperate people and I liked him immediately. When the story begins, he’s keeping his head down, just trying to get through to 18 when he can hopefully check out of the Proxy system and maybe get an IT job. He’s also crazy smart, he has a knack for reading people and figuring out their motives. He sees right through Knox’s bullshit, which I really enjoyed. I like my characters to be quick on the uptake. It’s also worth noting that Syd is both a POC and gay and is it me or is it a little sad that these characteristics are unusual enough in a YA MC that they’re call out-able?
Syd and Knox’s developing bromance is adorable and sweet. I still can’t quite define their relationship, but I know that I liked it quite a bit. The side characters were pretty fantastic as well. Marie’s determined commitment to her idealistic beliefs is both admirable and naive. Egan is a pleasure, somehow both squirrelly and surprisingly loyal. I do wish that everyone had been fleshed out a little more. So much of this book is taken up with the action, sometimes it seems that character development gets a little left out.
Fortunately, the plot doesn’t give you too much time to notice any character failings too much. Pretty soon, everything goes bananas and we are officially running headlong into crazytown. The pace is unrelenting. After a brief exposition period, every chapter ends with new twists and/or disasters. Though it can be a touch predictable in places, the action ultimately builds to an completely unexpected and devastating ending.
A few additional and relatively minor complaints:
- Where are the ladies? There is only one prominent female character (and when you think about it, only three additional very minor female characters in the entire book) and that seemed odd and a little disappointing.
- The initial plan between Marie and Knox’s fathers confused the hell out of me and it’s never really explained. Granted, it doesn’t seem like it had all that much to do with the plot except to introduce Marie as a character of consequence, but I don’t like unexplained loose ends. If it was just a ploy to introduce her character, why bother making it so complicated? I don’t know, it’s a little murky.
I need the sequel like I need cake (i.e. A LOT). Alex London leaves the story on a note that could go in any direction and it’s killing me. I am fully absorbed, I need to know what’s going to happen.
I was not expecting this book and I am so glad I randomly picked up this book one morning. I was on the edge of my seat from the get-go and am left with a new sci fi action series to look forward to, I can’t ask for much more than that.
(Whoa. Got to the end and realized I have no gifs for this. WHO AM I? Anyway, couldn’t do it so here’s this which has nothing to do with anything but it makes me giggle.)