This is a short excursion into a ‘what if?’ world, one where lifespans are massively extended and drastic action has been taken to curtail global population. In this near future, every new life must be balanced by a death. There’s a strict ‘one in, one out’ policy which is clinically enforced at all levels of this stratified society. If doesn’t matter if you scrape a living in the squalid ground-level slums, or glide among the privileged classes in their towers of gleaming steel and glittering glass. If you have an unauthorised child then its arrival into the world must be balanced by the death of a donor.
And if there is no donor then… the mother pays the ultimate price for the life of her child. So image how Janice feels when – against all the odds and the usual precautions – she discovers that she’s pregnant.
The story that unfolds depicts Janice’s desperate attempts to finesse the advantages which come with her high-society status into survival. She’s prepared to do almost anything to convince a destitute donor to take the ultimate fall for her. But as her due date approaches, Janice discovers that the people right at the top of society’s tree have been manipulating the situation, and all is not what it seems…
This is a clever scenario and an engaging plot, with a couple of cleverly crafted revelations that you may predict if you pay close enough attention. The writing is clean and crisp, nothing fussy. If you liked the plot of The Handmaid’s Tale but found the prose to be a little literary or challenging, then this is a far more straightforward proposition, suitable for the YA audience.
The Cost Of Living is novella-length, so easily consumed in a single sitting. Although I found the characters to be rather remote and hard to engage with, the thought-provoking premise provided plenty of entertainment. There are also enough twists, turns and mysteries to keep most thriller fans happy.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
The Cost Of Living by Marla L Anderson is available at Amazon