Nicola Barker does sci-fi. Barker has made her name with quirky stories set in the less glamorous suburbs of southern England, mixing zany people with everyday situations. So when we meet Mira A in a future utopia it is a real departure.
And Utopia it is. The world is run by and for The Young. People are hooked up to Sensors that turn pink or purple when a person starts to display an Excess Of Emotion, and it will be recorded on The Graph for others to read. This will encourage The Young to return their thoughts to neutral matters as soon as possible, perhaps using chemical assistance.
But all is not well. Mira A’s Graph often turns pink or the purple. She discovers forbidden guitar music by Agustin Barrios that veers dangerously in the direction of free expression. So dangerous is music that musicians can only be referred to in code (numbers that, when read backwards, give each letter’s position in the alphabet). Her alter ego, Mira B seems to be determined to knock her off course.
Through subversion, Mira A experiences sensory overload and accesses a world where her Graph shows shades of green and blue, words forming patterns and blank space.
This is a masterpiece of fun and games, beautifully set in coloured text and graphics. It is a novelty item, yes, but it is also a highly lyrical story which should make us question how far social media is forcing us in a direction of increased social compliance and false emoting.