A powerful, prescient speculative thriller: a woman’s job of enforcing climate-emergency Britain’s one-child policy is compromised when she discovers a personal link to an illegal sibling on the Ministry hit-list, leading to a shocking discovery that changes everything…
One law. One child. Seven million crimes.
A cataclysmic climate emergency has spawned a one-child policy in the UK, ruthlessly enforced by a totalitarian regime. Compulsory abortion of ‘excess’ pregnancies and mandatory contraceptive implants are now the norm, and families must adhere to strict consumption quotas as the world descends into chaos.
Kai is a 25-year-old ‘baby reaper’, working for the Ministry of Population and Family Planning. If any of her assigned families attempt to exceed their child quota, she ensures they pay the price.
Until, one morning, she discovers that an illegal sibling on her Ministry hit-list is hers. To protect her parents from severe penalties, she must secretly investigate before anyone else finds out.
Kai’s hunt for her forbidden sister unearths much more than a dark family secret. As she stumbles across a series of heinous crimes perpetrated by the people she trusted most, she makes a catastrophic discovery that could bring down the government … and tear her family apart.
Hi and welcome to my review of One!
I remember perfectly when I fell in love with dystopian literature. I was in highschool, we read 1984, and it just blew me away. In recent years, there have been shows like Black Mirror and there has been an abundance of dystopian literature, both in YA and adult fiction. I can name quite a few authors whose speculative books I’ve enjoyed, but if I had to name one writer who gets dystopian lit down to a T, it’s Eve Smith.
Thinking back to the godfather of all dystopian lit (IMHO), One is the 1984 for the modern age. We are presented with a totalitarian state, and the principles of democracy are essentially out the window, along with basic human rights. Big Brother might not be watching, but the ONE party certainly is and they’re keeping score: if your mother has been taking too many showers, you had better not make long travels or your father might be eating dry bread for a time, or worse. Yes, every family has a “resource quota” so as not to be a burden on the environment.
However, that is not the main thing the party stands for: every person is allowed to have just one child. Your husband cheated on you and his mistress is pregnant? Forget about your own baby plans. You’re pregnant with twins? Well, that’s highly irresponsible of you, but no worries, we’ll just make one of them go poof. It’s atrocious and heart-breaking. I mean, “excess” children?! If you want more than one child, and you can take care of them, how can a child be excessive?! It made me mad and sad in equal measure, especially knowing that measures such as these are not fictional. And that’s just the beginning. By the end, I was entirely flabbergasted by the horrific truths that were uncovered.
The story is told from the perspective of Kai, who works for the Ministry of Population and Family Planning. She’s clearly indoctrinated, but you can tell she’s a good person and wants to do good, and I was urging her on and rooting for her, desperate for her to open her eyes and really see.
What I love and appreciate most about Eve Smith’s stories, and One is no exception, is that they are scarily realistic. She takes existing issues and escalates them, but to such an extent that even though you know you’re reading fiction, a part of you can’t help wonder “what if”, like this is not so far-fetched, this could actually happen at one point. In One, she paints a world in which many animal species have gone extinct and the world has been wrecked by floods and wildfires and famine.
One refers to the climate change and the need for action. It speaks of finding your place in the world, of parenthood, of xenophobia, of human rights and humanity in all senses of the word. Despite these heavy topics, it is also a marvellously entertaining read, super addictive and thrilling from start to finish. I had a fantastic time with it and if you enjoy speculative fiction and dystopian literature, I’m sure you will love it too. Highly recommended.
One is out in digital formats and paperback on 20 July. Preorder it directly from Orenda Books here.
Massive thanks to Orenda Books for the eARC. All opinions are my own.