The Subjugate is deftly written, pairing the thrill of a crime novel with an analysis of technology and its impact on the world at large. Central to the novel is a critique of methods of control, examining religion, technology, and the criminal justice system. Bridgeman doesn’t shy away from these debates, presenting strong opinions on the reformation of criminals, and the positive and negative aspects of religion. Overall, it’s a smart, well-crafted story that drew me in until the very end.
NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review. I only publish reviews of books I enjoy, and this novel meets that criterion.
By Amanda Bridgeman
Quick Summary: After a murder rocks a small town in the suburbs of San Fransisco, a detective and her parter are confronted with a bevy of questionable suspects and a criminal reform program that seems the obvious culprit. A chase to catch the murderers ensues, leading to a startling conclusion.
There have been some great science fiction crime/thriller novels this year. The Subjugate stands at the top of the mix due to the obvious talent of its author. Bridgeman masterfully weaves her story, sending you on a wild goose chase, giving you an inkling of a solution, only to turn things back around unexpectedly. The best qualities of a thriller are at work here, and she plays on them expertly. Here are the books strongest points:
THE STORY PROGRESSION
Bridgeman’s writing style sucked me in and didn’t let me go until the final page. There’s brilliant pacing here, with so many possible suspects and motives that the reader becomes a detective. The conversations were thought-provoking, the conflicts were riveting, and overall, it was eminently entertaining.
A STRONG, YET STRUGGLING, PROTAGONIST
Detective Salvi is a strong, capable detective who works her hardest to solve this case, never giving up as the odds mount against her. She has many layers as a character, due to her deep past and her reluctance to share her life with people. It was fascinating to follow her logic, sticking with her as she asks the important questions and strives for a solution.
THE GOOD AND BAD OF TECHNOLOGY
There’s an unfortunate past with technology in this world – I’ll say no more. This past gives the story a chance to look closely at technology and what it does to human interactions and society at large. There’s a particularly eye-opening scene where our detective sits on a train, noticing the complete silence of those around her. There is no talking, no interaction, only with devices. The story takes a hard look at what technology has done to us and asks us to judge for ourselves what kind of world we want to live in.
THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
This is the most fascinating aspect of The Subjugate. We see a program where the country’s worst criminals are given a second chance at life through stringent reform, both biological and psychological. There’s a deep conversation on true criminal reform that weaves throughout the book, and it’s vital to engage with.
A CRITIQUE OF RELIGION
This is always a subject of contention, and Bridgeman dives right in, showing us extreme religion and its impact on a small town. No matter your stance on religious extremism, the story shows us what’s possible and what stringent religious beliefs and restrictions can do to a person.