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Friday, 18 December 2020

✍ The Rage Room - Lisa de Nikolits

Genre: Dystopian Sci-fi
Published by Inanna Publications
Number of pages: 300
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆  I liked it a lot 
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The Rage Room
|| Synopsis || Excerpt || Review || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||

The perfect father kills his family on Christmas Eve, and tries to undo his actions by jumping back in time. The result is murder and mayhem in dystopia. Set in 2055, the world is run by robots and virtual data, while the weather is controlled by satellite dishes. Arts and culture are no more than distant memories. People are angry, placated by prescribed visits to rage rooms to vent their boredom, fury, and discontent. Beneath the sunny skies and behind the garbage-free suburban McMansions live deeply disturbed, materialistic families.

During his time travels and increasingly desperate attempts to reserve his colossal mistake, Sharps Barkley meets the leader of the Eden Collective, a feminist army determined to save the Earth by removing all artificial intelligence and letting the Earth restore itself—if necessary, at the expense of mankind. The Eden Collective uses data gathered from the rage rooms to analyze and predict the potential and actions needed for the Earth to reset and they need to prove that time travel is an effective tool. If Sharps can go back and save his children, then there is hope for the future. Sharps is the 49th experiment and his success is pivotal. Can love prevail over anger?

The Rage Room has a multi-layered plot that is fueled by a feminist-driven courage to take charge and save the world as it exposes the effects of an increasingly digital age on our lives and, ultimately, our humanity.

"The Rage Room" is the tenth novel by Lisa de Nikolits and my first taste of her work.  I am not sure I have ever read something quite like this; it's a dark satirical dystopian technological sci-fi thriller which provides us with an unsettling glimpse into a future our society might be hurtling towards.

Narrated in the first person by anti-hero Sharps Barkley, we are vividly transported into a not-so-distant future where nature, culture and art are no-more and illegal; everything is controlled by a female religious supreme ruler using artificial intelligence (AI).  Consumerism rules, and beyond the shiny super-technological bubbles enjoyed by the rich, lie compounds full of the lower layers of undesirables.  Free-thinking is in short supply and virtual digital reality abounds.  As do the rage rooms: a safe environment where people can vent their frustrations.

All of the societal elements presented by Nikolits (including the rage rooms) are based on our own present reality; the values portrayed can easily be identified in our own society which make her dystopian world so real and disturbing.  The step is truly small. And, as in all societies, different forces are at play.

The Rage Room is Sharps Barkley's journey, as he finds himself an unwitting pawn in a much larger plan.  He is deeply flawed, as are all of the characters we encounter - without exception - but, by the end of his venture, full of revelations and growth, I found myself understanding him and sympathising with him. 

The pace is relentless with head-spinning twists that hit you just when you thought you had things figured out.  More often than not, the narrative is complex as everything is different from what we know and there is a lot of technology involved, therefore it can be difficult to keep up with it.  But then I don't think we are supposed to; just as our narrator is struggling, I believe we are supposed to struggle with it all.  Be prepared to be dazzled by many terms, from locations renamed using names of saints, to various types of plastics, drugs, products and mind-boggling explanations of futuristic technology, including time travel.  At times I truly felt like a rabbit in the headlights.

Be aware that, although the novel opens with a hint at time travel, this doesn't actually come into play until half-way into the story, and Sharps's first visit to the past does not take place until the 55% mark.  The Rage Room is about a dystopian futuristic society, and time travel plays a part in it.  As I devoured the pages, I had flashes of several films, such as American Psycho (for our Sharps), Demolition Man (for The Sacred Board and their health and safety rules), Dredd (for the living situation of the undesirables, the Blowflies), 1984 (as your actions are never just your own), Total Recall (the theme of memory and manipulation of reality), as well as Back to the Future, High Rise and The Matrix.

The book deals with murder (including of children), suicide, sex, various types of abuse, deceit and contains bad language, however, I never felt that any of it was over-descriptive, or excessive.  I also want to reiterate that, although witty and humorous, this is a dark tale, with a strong feminist undertone.  Nikolits also makes references to our popular culture of the last few decades.

Undefinable, intelligent, topical and multifaceted, The Rage Room will stay with you for a long time.  I know I want to read it again to see if I can pick up nuances I missed the first time around.

[ARC received via Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours]

About the Author

Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits is an award-winning author whose work has appeared on recommended reading lists for both Open Book Toronto and the 49th Shelf, as well as being chosen as a Chatelaine Editor’s Pick and a Canadian Living Magazine Must Read.

She has published nine novels that most recently include: No Fury Like That (published in Italian under the title Una furia dell’altro mondo); Rotten Peaches, The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution, and The Nearly Girl.

Lisa lives and writes in Toronto and is a member of the Sisters in Crime, Toronto Chapter; Sisters in Crime; Mesdames of Mayhem; and The International Thriller Writers.

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CMash said...

Sounds like quite the read!!!!

Lisa de Nikolits said...

I can't thank you enough for this great and thoughtful review!
I am over the moon!
Have a wonderful Christmas Holidays!
Best Wishes,

BooksChatter said...

Thank you, Lisa :-)
And thank you for writing something so unique and engaging.
I am going to catch up on your other novels :-D

Wishing you and your furry one a wonderful Christmas as well!


Wall-to-wall books said...

Great review! I love how you compared it to movies :-)
And - "a dark satirical dystopian technological sci-fi thriller which provides us with an unsettling glimpse into a future our society might be hurtling towards" - Perfect discription!