Colin McEvoy's Reviews > Runtime

Runtime by S.B. Divya
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An enjoyable, quick read with a lot of really interesting ideas, so much so that I couldn't help but wishing the author had fleshed some of them out a bit more and made it into a full-blown novel instead of a novella.

Set in a near-future, near-dystopic California, there are a lot of fascinating and thought-provoking themes at play. There's an American caste system in which citizens have to be licensed to receive an education or social services. There's a myriad of moral quandaries that the protagonist, Marmeg, is confronted with during her race, none of which I will spoil here. And, most interestingly to me, there's a clash of competing values between those who believe advanced technology should be used to improve human beings (to the point where they are nearly no longer human) and others who shun such enhancements and embrace natural life ("You think you’re going to change the world. The reality is that the world is changing us.")

I feel like debut author S.B. Divya could have expanded on some of these cool ideas she introduces, like the concept of "moots" (an androgynous state achieved through elective surgery). Marmeg strives to achieve this status, which is regarded as fashionable and progressive in this society, and indeed it seems to embody Marmeg's lifeview of striving for physical perfection through technological augmentations. As she says: "Better to judge on what you can do, not how you born. Bodies are going out. Nats be left behind." But due to the short length of the book, just as the author starts really delving into all this, it feels like it's over.

Likewise, early in the book we are introduced to Marmeg's family and friends, and then the action quickly moves on from that to the race itself, which begins just as suddenly. As a result, the people in Marmeg's life feel more like types than three-dimensional characters (the hardass mother; the trainwreck-with-a-heart-of-gold brother; the quirky best friend). If this were a full-length novel, I think Divya could have fleshed out Marmeg's life and explored this society a bit more, delving into how humanity has reached the bleak point that it has.

Nevertheless, Runtime is a solid novella and a fun read for anyone who enjoys sci-fi. I particularly enjoyed the jargon that Marmeg and others use throughout the book, ("Filched." "Let's rube it." "I'll graf." "No stink.") which at times reminded me of a more accessible version of Nadsat language from A Clockwork Orange. I look forward to reading more from S.B. Divya in the future.
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Reading Progress

June 13, 2017 – Shelved
June 13, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
June 27, 2017 – Started Reading
June 29, 2017 – Finished Reading

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