Elizabeth Guizzetti is the author of Other Systems – a book I read for the 2016 Reading Challenge. It was “A book recommended by someone you just met”. I enjoyed it so much that I bought the sequel: Light Side of the Moon, which I also enjoyed but never got around to writing a proper review.
Elizabeth Guizzetti has a channel in a quiet corner of YouTube. Among other things, she reviews books – too infrequently, in my opinion. Here’s her review of The Park, by Voss Foster:
OK, she made me want to read this book. Unfortunately, the Seattle Public Library didn’t have it, or anything else by Voss Foster. I thought about buying it, if it wasn’t too much, and contributing it to the office lending library when I (and maybe Phillip) was finished with it. The Park was out of stock at both Elliott Bay Books and Powells. Amazon had it. That was a possibility.
I remembered my Kobo Mini eReader. Ever since our computer suddenly decided that it wasn’t going to play nice with Seattle Public Library eBooks anymore, I hardly ever use my Kobo Mini. I logged into Kobo Books and discovered that they had The Park as a free download. That beat Amazon’s price.
The Park, by Voss Foster, was published in 2015.
It’s January 1, 2074. Twelve people wake up in separate areas of a mobile home park, which is surrounded by electric fences and armed guards. They each remember where they were the night before, but none remember how they got to wherever they are.
They each find a letter from Evenstad Media, explaining that they are contestants in a new television game show. The goal is to be the only survivor. There are no rules, and no laws apply. No criminal charges will result from anything they do. The winner will receive twenty million US dollars. The families of the losers will receive some compensation.
Shelter is provided for the contestants. Food is provided, but not replenished. They are each given a mysterious medallion (which seems to contain a random weapon), called a Contained Energy Source Unit (or CESU). They’re also given an electronic journal. Writing in the journal is encouraged, but not required.
The letter promises that there are more CESUs hidden in the park.
The Park is an epistolary novel. We learn about the twelve contestants through their journal entries. We learn about the game from the letter they find. We learn about Evenstad Media through internal emails. We learn about key events in the show from online reviews.
The story builds up slowly. Each of the short journal entries starts off as a self-introduction to the contestants, and their personalities. No one wants to kill anyone, at first. Friendships are formed. Two contestants fall in love.
But, twenty million dollars is a lot of money, and everyone does want to get out of the park.
The Park doesn’t have the most original plot ever, but that didn’t matter to me. It was a well-told story with enough twists to keep it interesting.
I have mixed feelings about the epistolary formant for this story. On the negative side, what’s the point of the journals? I never got a sense of how journal-writing fit into the television show, or into Evenstad Media’s mission. What’s motivating the contestants to write in them? What if any of them simply tossed the journals aside and worked on survival?
On the positive side, the journals gave each of the twelve constants an equal voice. It created a real sense that any one of them could be the one walking out of the park. It was a nice way to present multiple viewpoints of various events. The journals didn’t make sense to me, but they served a purpose.
I went into it with some skepticism: Even 57 years in the future, could a corporation – no matter how powerful – really get away with broadcasting murders on a television show? But, the book surprised me with a plausible explanation for that.
I enjoyed The Park. It had some interesting characters, and it kept me guessing until the very last ePage. The Park is the first in a series of Evenstad Media stories. I’m now curious what the other books have in store – which was, of course, the (brilliant) strategy Kobo Books had in mind when they gave away the first book free.
- A book recommended by an author you love
(If you’re reading this, Elizabeth Guizzetti, please do more book reviews!)