In this dystopian riff on a future with no individual emotion, everyone’s minds are controlled through a device embedded in the ear, called Singers. The Singers deliver the Music to keep people calm and unquestioning; passions are squelched, creativity is squandered, and hatred is outlawed, since it can lead to rebellion. Even dreams are seen as radical, and curtailed by use of special night music, to keep the masses in check. All of this is controlled by the Conductor, an all-powerful dictator, backed up by a family of scientists, who research new ways to use the music to tame the people. Those who resist are turned into mutts by having their genes altered, and being more heavily influenced by the Music. Sounds like a great place to live right? I suppose you might think so if you had never been given a choice.
But naturally, there are some people who are given a choice, and not bent to the will of the Singers. And there are some people who resist the Singers and the Conductor, and feel a deep loathing towards what has been done to their society. And so, as in any good dystopian universe, you have a rebellion, dominated by young people. This one is called the Anthem, and its members express their passions and frustrations through music, playing old vinyl records and antique instruments. Their creativity flowers in a communal setting below the city, as they plot the downfall of the Conductor and his supporters.
My main criticism of this book is that some of the writing and settings seem a bit juvenile, particularly when it comes to the budding romance between street-rat Ronja and wealthy Roark. However, this is not that surprising since the author was in college when she wrote it (which is actually pretty impressive to be published so young!). But this is mildly distracting on only a few occasions, and did not keep me from getting engrossed in the story, and staying up late several nights in a row to finish it. At the end of the day, it is a YA book written by a young author, but that doesn’t make it unworthy of reading.
In fact, there are many reasons to read this book. Although the idea of a mind-controlled, deeply dysfunctional society is not new, the idea of music and individuality as the key to the antidote is fresh. The experimentations on mutts and rebels was chilling on a “The Handmaids Tale” level, and made my stomach roil with discomfort. The book also raises the important question of how, and why, societies remain complacent until it is too late, instead of taking steps to stomp out evil when it rears its head…is it denial, ignorance, or something more subtle? I look forward to seeing if, and how, the Anthem manage to save their people.
Final opinion: Vinyl is entertaining, disturbing, and absorbing; it would be appealing to the dystopian and sci fi crowd alike! Another plus: the final book in the trilogy was published in May, so there’s no suffering through a wait for future installments. I plan on reading them all very soon!