Harper Adams was six years old in 2012 when an act of viral terrorism wiped out one-half of the country's population. Out of the ashes rose a new government, the Confederation of the Willing, dedicated to maintaining order at any cost. The populace is controlled via government-sanctioned sex and drugs, a brutal police force known as the Blue Coats, and a device called the slate, a mandatory implant that monitors every word a person speaks. To utter a Red-Listed, forbidden word is to risk physical punishment or even death.
But there are those who resist. Guided by the fabled "Book of Noah," they are determined to shake the people from their apathy and ignorance, and are prepared to start a war in the name of freedom. The newest member of this resistance is Harper -- a woman driven by memories of a daughter lost, a daughter whose very name was erased by the Red List. And she possesses a power that could make her the underground warriors' ultimate weapon -- or the instrument of their destruction.
In the tradition of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Laura Bynum has written an astonishing debut novel about a chilling, all-too-plausible future in which speech is a weapon and security comes at the highest price of all.
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It is the near distant future in a country that used to resemble America. In response to a Pandemic that occurred thirty years prior, the government has taken control over every aspect of a citizen’s life: where they live, where they go, what they say, who they love. By in large, the populace has accepted this shift from freedom to security. Basic needs have been provided for via state-managed sex, the anesthetizing drug Occlusia, and a mandated, yet stable, workforce. It is a country no longer run by the people or for the people but over the people. It is a totalitarian regime in which art, nature and all other things that threaten to transcend a forced resignation have been banned.
Topics of Interest Questions:
The resistance operates on the principle that an educated populace will not stand for the continuation of a totalitarian state. Do you agree? Why or why not?
If Harper’s sentient abilities are the opposite of critical thinking, why is she so important to the resistance?
What kind of power does the control of language provide the government?
How does not being able to identify a thing via language inhibit a person’s ability to process it?
Why did the government choose to name itself The Confederation of the Willing?
To keep the masses in lockstep, the government has provided them such placebos as state-paid sex and medication. What pains do these placebos mask and what would happen if they were taken away?
Security versus freedom. Which is more important? Discuss what the loss of either would mean to you, the country, and the planet.
In addition to language, the following has been largely banned by the Confederation of the Willing: nature, art, religious freedom, and civil rights. Why?
What would happen if access to any or all of these were legal?
Precedent. What does this word mean, in both literal and applicable terms? For example, how does something that seems to be a positive step in the now open the doors to something dangerous down the road? Why should all legislative actions be considered for both their immediate and long-term possibilities?
In the Confederation, when a crime is committed, a corresponding punishment ensues. What does the absence of a jury or a system of further inquiry portend?
The church has become an extension of the government. It is the very thing that prompted our forefathers to make the first amendment one that separates church and state. How has the marriage of these two given Confederation leaders an easy path to power?
During the Pandemic, the populace is inexplicably motivated to follow along with the government’s excavation of their former country. Why?
Media plays a huge part in the government’s control. How?
Why is it important for Lazarus to present The Book of Noah to the country?
What might the information contained within this book awaken in citizens?
Harper has lived in a world of conflicting ideals nearly her entire life. What inspires her to accept the invitation to become a member of the resistance?
The Confederation of the Willing has spread the idea that Christ was not persecuted. According to their story, “He came into the world recognized and was ceded all power. No struggle required.” How does this interpretation fit their agenda?
What is the difference between fact and opinion? How do you recognize one from the other? How do you think this difference is manipulated in the new marketing, etc.?
The Confederation of the Willing uses emotional manipulation to secure its citizens’ regard. Do you see this technique in use today? Does hate play a large role in modern news and media?
In the beforetime, the fewer adjectives and adverbs in a news story, the more likely it was to be straight facts, unprejudiced by emotion or bias. How do the reports coming out of the Confederation provide an insight into their motivation? How does this compare to today’s news?
Why does Harper have such a hard time accepting Ezra?
Why does Ezra harbor such resentment for Harper?
Harper has envisioned John Gage as things he could never possibly be. Why?
Despite Lazarus’s good intentions, was Rita’s rescue from the Confederation the right thing to do?
LAURA BYNUM was born in Springfield, Illinois (Land of Lincoln) in 1968. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Illinois, and earned an MA in Mass Media and Interpersonal Communications from Eastern Illinois University. She has extensive experience in marketing, corporate training and public relations. In 2006 she attended the Maui Writer’s Conference and was awarded its top prize—the Rupert Hughes Prose Award—for an early draft of VERACITY. She is currently at work on a second novel. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Virginia.