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hector

hector - K.I. Hope Full disclosure: Yeah, I know the author, and yeah, she is very cool. That said, I still think I can write an objective review of this book.Remember that time I read a book with a conceptual spoiler? (Soylent Green ain't people)When you get to the very end of Hector, and if you read the Afterword, information will be revealed which entirely changes the context of the book. Certain characters are not quite who you thought they were. Certain scenes will need to be re-evaluated in their disambiguated light. No, K.I. Hope didn't play a trick on you. The emotions you felt up to (and hopefully including) the last chapter were entirely appropriate, and that is very much the point of the book. I can't say more without spoiling things, but trust me, would you want to know that "Soylent Green is people" from a review?A word about dystopiasIf you read George Orwell's 1984, I hope you were left with a sick feeling about the world he described. Orwell got it right. The rats, the pitiless brutality of Room 101. There should be nothing whatsoever appealing about these things. Switching gears to nonfiction, consider Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago. One hundred men inhabit a cramped cell together in a Soviet work camp. At the center of the room is a single bucket which serves as the communal toilet, and which inevitably fills to the point of overflow every night. Add to that smell the occasional vomit, and the frequent corpse which may not be immediately removed, and you get an idea of what Solzhenitsyn lived with, day in and day out, for almost twenty years. Dystopias are ugly. They're messy. Contempt is most easily expressed through neglect. These aspects of dystopia tend to get overlooked. Even Huxley's Brave New World is a little too clean for some to swallow as dystopian. Hollywood can always be depended on to get this stuff wrong. If you have time, watch the 1956 movie version of 1984The movie's set has the well-kept appearance of nearly everything Hollywood produced in those days. INGSOC is rendered in immaculate polished surfaces. Hero and villain alike are decked out in suits much more striking for their clean, well-tailored appearance than for the drab, hopeless society they supposedly bespeak. Julia is portrayed by a slightly-too-hot-to-be-credible Jan Sterling. (Seriously, Julia is supposed to give the impression of a woman who would have been beautiful, if not for time and place she was born. There's a problem with any production of 1984 where half the audience wants to nail her.) Winston Smith doesn't look like a stinking, dehumanized slave when O'Brien pulls out his tooth; he looks like he's a goddamned model for an Oceania J.C.Penny! All this slick presentation undermines the perception of inhumanity, and precludes outrage.K.I. Hope most definitely does not fall into that trap. Hector's dystopia is unhygienic. It stinks. Where there isn't blood and piss and snot, there's vomit and shit. Yeah- you aren't supposed to be comfortable reading it; dysptopias are ugly. K.I. Hope got this part right. Solzhenitsyn would approve. Conceptual spoiler revisitedWhat I like best about Hector is that the book's value is not dependent on some O. Henry-esque "gotcha!" moment at the end. The story isn't about surprise at all, it's about a police state we all know, yet rarely think about. Sure, there are obvious parallels to Auschwitz and Tuol Sleng, but honestly, marquis barbarism like Auschwitz doesn't need somebody to tell you it's wrong. Hector is more along the lines of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. Ms. Hope draws our attention to conditions we know very well about, and then proceeds to show us how we aren't nearly as outraged as we ought to be. She's a voice of conscience, and she tells a good story to boot. For that, I have no problem lumping her in with luminaries like Orwell and Solzhenitsyn.