Bethany's Reviews > The Kingdom

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg
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it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites

This one is one of the smartest, most compelling books I have read this year and it will definitely be making my favorites list! I suspect this one is going to be a big hit and I'm really glad I was encouraged to pick it up.

The Kingdom is a brilliant sci-fi thriller that completely sucked me in. It is both beautiful and disturbing, weaving together hard-hitting social commentary with a page-turning mystery. Set at a futuristic theme park (think Disneyland on steroids with sci-fi technology) The Kingdom follows Ana, one of 7 biological AI hybrid princesses who only exist to make happily ever afters come true. It is told in a dual narrative, past and present. In the present timeline, there has been a murder and Ana is on trial as a suspect.

Thematically this book is so rich, I'm going to give you some bullet points.

1- The Meaning of Humanity: Unsurprisingly for a book that involves some degree of Artificial Intelligence, there is a deep consideration of what it means to be human, to feel, to have self-determination and where the line between machine and sentient being is. Most of the story is told through Ana's perspective and we see the disconnect between her internal growth, feelings, and relationships, and the way she is clearly viewed by others as, at best, a child to be manipulated and controlled or, at worst, a program with no value or sense of self. We also see different sides of this issue in documents related to the trial. (i.e. can Ana be convicted of murder if there was simply a glitch in her programming?)

2- The Commodification of Beauty and Diversity: The princesses are diverse in terms of skin tone and facial features, supposedly representing global unity, but lacking any attached cultural heritage or history. It is lip-service diversity for the purpose of corporate revenue by the theme park. (Case in point, the "authentic Nigerian" jewelry worn by one of the princesses and available for purchase in the gift shop is made in Taiwan) Likewise, they are all forced to maintain impossible standards of physical perfection and are treated by men as interchangable because they are clearly meant to be consumed. Which leads me to....

3- Rape Culture & the Objectification of Women: In terms of content, do be aware that there is on-page sexual harassment and off-page sexual assault that takes place. The princesses are treated as "not real" and as objects to be leered at and consumed rather than as people. Which very understandably results in...

4- The Legitimacy and Necessity of Female Anger: We see this anger manifest in multiple characters in different ways as a response to the mistreatment, abuse, and tight control of the princesses. Thematically, I think this is very timely. With the #metoo movement we are in a cultural zeigeist surrounding female rage and I think she really taps into that in ways that teen girls should have access to. The author also parallels this in very interesting ways with mistreatment of animals...

5- Animals and the Environment: This book is set in a future where global warming has done a number on the environment and many species of animals are extinct. The Kingdom offers an escape from that reality, partly by giving to live to extinct hybrid animals that are part biological clones, part technological construct. But this gives way to some big questions about treatment of animals (again paralleling the treatment of the princesses). For instance, some of the animals are engineered not to experience physical pain, so is it animal cruelty to raise zebras and have lions attack them in order to entertain guests? (Major content warnings for animal cruelty by the way, in this and several other scenes). On the flip side, there is a really interesting plot thread about evolution that feels very hopeful in the face of such a bleak future for the environment.

There is probably more, but I will stop there. I'm blown away at how the author was able to weave such weighty thematic content into this page-turner of a book that just leaves you wanting more. I would LOVE to see more in this world, especially from the perspectives of some of the other princesses. I received an advance review copy of this book via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Content/Trigger warnings for the following: animal abuse and cruelty, on-page sexual harassment, off-page sexual assault, self-harm and attempted suicide, manipulation and control
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Reading Progress

March 29, 2019 – Started Reading
March 29, 2019 – Shelved
March 30, 2019 – Finished Reading
April 7, 2019 – Shelved as: favorites

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by StarFruit (new)

StarFruit This was a very helpful review. Thank you!

Bethany I'm glad it was helpful!

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