THIS NEEDS TO BE REQUIRED READING IN SCHOOL
This is a story of patience, of staying the course, of dedication, of focus. It is a story of greed, anger, depression and revenge. It is a story of psychosis sanctioned by societal and political apathy. And it is a story that takes place in our not-to-distant future, approximately the 2030’s.
The protagonist of our story is Ryan Tyler, Jr., the very first child allowed to be legally adopted by a corporation, a corporation that just happens to be called “Avillage.” Ryan is 7 years old, is a recent orphan, and is an intellectual genius. He has perfect photographic and auditory memory and his IQ scores are off the charts. And he is a psychologically well-adjusted child even though he witnessed the death of his parents in a car accident just 3 months before.
By sheer chance Ryan learns that he will be the pilot project for Avillage and that the couple he will live with will not actually be his legal parents. He learns that he will be, basically, an incorporated entity whose future value will be traded on the stock exchange, an IPO. Even as young as he is, he knows to keep what he knows to himself. But he is always listening, watching and researching the holding company of Avillage and the AVEX stock exchange.
Dan Koontz is thorough in creating the plausible backstory for the legally groundbreaking exchange. Avillage is the brainchild of another intellectual genius by the name of James Prescott. For 30 years, since his grad school days at Princeton, Prescott has been developing the idea of turning children with exceptional intellectual, physical or creative talents into financial investments, complete with a board of directors and stockholders. He focuses his efforts on orphaned children in order to gain social and political sympathy. Day by day, year by year, he lobbies the politicians until he is actually able to get the civil rights laws changed to allow the modern day equivalent of indentured servitude.
Any private orphanage or government child welfare agency is allowed to essentially sell a qualified child to Avillage after the child has been legally orphaned for 3 months. Even though minors, they are allowed no guardian ad litem to represent their interests. Their education, their extra-curricular activities, their very will is subverted to the needs of the investors. And the law allows Avillage to adopt one child every month.
The children are bound to the corporation as minors and as adults. All adoptees must forfeit a percentage of their after-tax income yearly to Avillage until they can buy themselves out or they reach the age of 63, whichever comes first. The only other way to be released is to self-destruct the talent, go to jail or die. And the children are not being told any of this. Nor are they being told that the people they think of as their new parents are only carefully selected caretakers.
Now if that little tidbit of insidious social reform is not enough to get you engrossed in the book, the author throws in another twist. Avillage’s Prescott has absolutely no compunction against terminating the parental rights, with prejudice, of any child he wants in his stable.
This book is a very well-written page-turner, one of those that sucks you in and demands that you read into the wee hours of the morning. You just have to know what Ryan is going to do when he turns 18. And you want to know how Ryan, along with Dillon and Annamaria, who are also Avillage orphans, will exact revenge against the people who sold them out.
I personally feel that Dan Koontz has written a novel that should be required reading in every school system in America. It also needs to be part of every sociology curriculum in the country. It’s really not that many steps from the Patriot Act and the Affordable Health Care Act to an Orphan Act.
I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads Giveaway Program. That fact did not, in any way, alter my opinion of the book.
Cover Art from Goodreads