Welcome to Newton, the perfect town...Where kids get perfect grades...And everyone seems perfectly happy - all the time...Except Newcomer Henry Ward isn't buying it. With a pair of misfit friends, he's determined to expose the dark secrets lurking behind Newton's bright facade. But asking questions about Newton and the corporation that owns it can be dangerous. The doctors in the sinister medical centre on the hill have a procedure called "adjustment" for kids who don't fit in...And Henry and his friends have just gone to the top of the waiting list.
I loved Andrew Taylor’s Superhumans series so I jumped at the chance to receive a copy of his new book, The Adjusters. Andrew has proven himself to be a great writer of action stories, and I guess I expected more of the same with his new book. I was wrong, and realised this as I was slapped in the face by a deliciously horrific scene in the prologue. Although there are a number of great action scenes in The Adjusters, they take more of a backseat this time around. Instead he has delivered a brilliant, but disturbing psychological sci-fi thriller that at times made me feel rather uncomfortable at times.
The story follows main character Henry Ward, a teenage boy who has moved to Newton with his mother who is an IVF specialist. She has secured a job at Malcorp, a top medical research facility. However, Henry very quickly starts to realise that there is something rotten at Malcorp, which is rather unfortunate as not only does his mother work there, but he also has live on site and attend the facility’s own school.
Henry’s suspicions are first aroused as they arrive in Newton and he comes across a terrified teenage girl who is obviously on the run from something. This leads to a run-in with the local cop, but his mother steps in and all seems to be fully explained. However, as he starts at his new school is feeling of discomfort grow and grow as there is something creepily unnatural about the other students. They are all just too perfect, and their intelligence levels are completely off the scale. And then there is the big boss of Malcorp, John Mallory. Sinister, warped, egotistical... none of these adjectives are really string enough to describe just how nasty this guy is. Very quickly Henry finds himself at the heart of a huge conspiracy, something that may not only affect him and his mother, but could potentially one day affect young people across the globe.
As I was reading this I was very much reminded of Ira Levin’s classic The Stepford Wives, and the 1975 film version (I have managed to avoid watching the remake starring Nicole Kidman). The story focuses on themes such as mind control, identity and how people who have a certain knowledge and power could experiment on individuals to turn them into little more than automatons, with no free will at all. There are also elements in the story that are similar to themes explored in Universal Soldier (starring Jean-Claude van Damme and Dolph Lundgren), but I won’t say any more about these for fear of spoiling the story for you.
I have no idea whether this is the first book in a new trilogy, or whether it is a standalone. The ending is great, but does leave things open for a sequel. However, much as I loved the story I think I would prefer it to remain as a standalone, and leave it to my own imagination to ponder on what could possibly happen next.
My thanks go to the good people at Usborne for sending me a copy of The Adjusters to review.