Book Review: One, Eve Smith
Science Fiction: One, Eve Smith
Blog Tour July 19, 2023
Climate change has caused massive destruction around the world, forcing millions of people to flee and become refugees. Great Britain has responded to the widespread devastation and its human toll by electing the One party. One has implemented an authoritarian, anti-immigrant regime with the goal of eliminating Britain’s contribution to the climate crisis. There is a strict one-child policy, enforced by governmental monitoring of women’s bodies and mandatory implantation of Destine, a pregnancy-blocking hormonal dispenser that lasts for years. Destine can be turned off when a woman is ready to have her sole child, but if she becomes pregnant a second time, the government is informed and agents are sent to compel women to have an abortion.
Kai is one of those agents. Her job is to investigate people, women, who have their one child but miss a period. She also checks up with people who miss their doctor’s visits to see whether they are trying to hide a pregnancy. She orders women expecting multiple children to have a “selective reduction,” killing all but one of the babies before they can be born. Kai is a believer in One. She sees what climate change has created. She believes in the government’s programs, which include strict quotas on consumption, travel, and emissions. After all, democracies had failed to stop global warming. The authoritarian approach was working.
One day, though, a genetic profile comes to her caseload. It is an illegal second child, already an adult. To her shock, though, the young woman’s DNA is a sibling match to Kai. Her own parents had flouted the law and had two children, successfully keeping that fact hidden for more than two decades. Kai is then faced with a dilemma: turn in her own parents and her unknown sister to face a lengthy jail sentence, or search for answers to questions she never thought she would ask?
What if those answers, though, challenge everything she’s ever believed in?
Eve Smith specializes in writing speculative fiction that examines the world in fresh ways. Have democracies failed us by refusing to take action that would upset their current constituencies? What are the potential consequences of governmental overreach? Do refugees surrender their rights in order to get a home in a new country?
I am an unabashed liberal, living in the U.S., terrified of the extremism embraced the previous president. I recognize the dangers of global warming, long for our politicians to take effective action, and worry constantly about the future my grandchildren will have.
One is a cautionary tale to everyone, liberal or conservative. We are all quick to point fingers. We are all slow to acknowledge our own sins. The appeal of authoritarianism is not specifically “left” or “right.” The One party in this story is both “liberal,” working to slow global warming, embracing green energy and sustainable living, and “conservative,” anti-immigrant and controlling of women’s bodies. Barry Goldwater, a US politician of the last century, famously said, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Perhaps more terrifying than the sentiment he expressed is the realization that it could be used by anyone to justify anything.
One is a brilliant and terrifying book. Kai’s journey is remarkable, not every thread is tied up in a bow by the end, and Eve Smith does an amazing job of humanizing the potential effects of a society which embraces the principle of the end justifying the means. It may be speculative fiction, but the seeds for her dystopian future are being sown today in plain sight.
Our thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things for our copy of One, provided so we could give an honest review. The opinions here are solely those of Scintilla. For other perspectives, check out the other bloggers on this tour.
Book Review: One, Eve Smith