A review by celinewyp
Orange City, by Lee M. Goldberg

dark medium-paced
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

2.25

<i>I obtained a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.</i>

Content warning: Dubious consent, mental health/illness, and spoilers.

Orange City is about a man who was Selected to join a hidden city made up of convicts. There, he becomes a spineless and uninspired ad man who just watches as life passes him by. When he's given the task of trying out one of the ad company's products, some soda called Pow!, he gets thrown into circumstances bigger than his own. '

I feel like I was too influenced by the description of the book that suggested that it was like George Orwell's 1984. While I do see the similarities, I feel like it's an unfair comparison. 1984 makes me scared; Orange City makes me roll my eyes. 

While reading the book, I tried to look for parallels between our current society and the one within the City. Yeah, both are capitalistic hellscapes, with the fictional one being even more risky and dangerous through black market drugs, fear of banishment into Empty Zones, and a totalitarian dictator called The Man. People who live in the City (the whole convict thing doesn't seem to be consistent either) are chained (sometimes literally) to the corporate ladder and forced to be productive. There's no way out of this life at all, since you can't go back to the Outside World. It's quite a good point there. Either you participate or
Spoilerbe used as lab rats for experiments on prosthetics
. Real life kind of feels that way too. You have to eke out whatever life you can, whether you're enmeshed in the system or not. It just decides what level of person you get to be.

The pacing and plot of the book was strange to me. Too much focus was put on the soda, playing out what happens with every flavour. Then it ramps up with a lot of action in the last 50 or so pages. Knowing that there's going to be a sequel, I suppose I can understand that groundwork is being laid for later. But honestly, I think it could have been trimmed down, especially since so much of it relied on colours. That said, the way the book went made me think of a movie. An indie art film that I certainly do not have the class to understand or appreciate. 

Worldbuilding is very important, especially when you're creating a dystopia. This book perhaps tries to combine too many aspects. It has a hidden city in a future after The War to End All Wars, with some cool tech, and perhaps way too much capitalisation. I love it when the technology serves a point in the plot. The soda doesn't quite do that. While it
Spoileraffects your mood and gets you hooked,
I still feel like it's extraneous. The point the book tries to make seems to be that, even in a world where you have no control, at least you have your own emotions and feelings. As someone with anxiety and depression, I feel like that lesson leaves me out of the picture. Honestly, give me some Pow! It sounds like it could work as meds for me. 

There's also some disturbing content in the book when it comes to relationships and sex. Insta-love or, in this iteration, a fixation by the main character on a woman who just goes along with it, is not just not my deal and really just confounds me. But beyond that, the consent here is dubious at best. So please keep this in mind if you decide to read the book. Another aspect that absolutely makes me feel terrible is that the two (one unnamed) Asian characters are involved in porn. Honestly, I'm not even sure why the porn industry was given the spotlight when the others were pharmaceuticals, ads, umbrellas, and the soda, among others. No mention of food or agriculture or waste management. But porn. Okay, I digress. These Asians are of questionable descent (Japanese? Chinese? Hints point to the latter but it sure isn't clear). 

Maybe I truly missed something here, but I can't help but feel like the book tried too hard to make a point.

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