Glitch is the first book in a new sci-fi dystopian trilogy by Heather Anastasiu. I received it as a digital review copy from NetGalley.
Set over a hundred years in the future, Zoe lives in the Community, where humans have been implanted with technology to rid them of their emotions and dull their senses. Logic and duty reign supreme, and the population is kept calm and unified by a constant connection to the Link network.
However, recently Zoe has been “glitching.” Her connection to the Link has turned sporadic, and she has started experiencing emotions. Initially terrified, she contemplates turning herself into the Regulators to be repaired. But the more emotion she experiences, she less sure she is that she wants to be repaired.
Her situation is further complicated when she meets two more “glitchers.” One, Adrien, is a a member of the Resistance, currently working undercover in the Community to find and protect other glitchers. The other, Max, is an association from school who has very different ideas about what the glitching means for Zoe and the Community.
Additionally, glitchers’ brains have to rewire themselves to get around the Community tech, and sometimes — like in the cases of Zoe, Max and Adrien — this rewiring leads them to develop unique and unprecedented new powers. Powers like telekinesis and shape-shifting.
Now the three of them must work together to keep themselves out of the hands of the Regulators. If they are discovered, it could mean deactivation…or worse.
Glitch is a fun, fast-paced cross between sci-fi, dystopian, and comic books. At times, it really feels like a bit of a grab-bag of pop culture. The law against emotion is reminiscent of Delirium. The superpowers-as-the-next-step-in-human-evolution plot reeks of X-Men. The villain is a hybrid of baddies from Uglies and Mockingjay. And then of course there’s the ubiquitous love triangle, which could remind you of the Twilight saga, or, you know, almost every YA book written in the last few years.
So yes, it’s somewhat formulaic. But the characters and the way they react to their world are unique, and again I must reiterate: there really are no new ideas in books. Just variations on tried and true themes. So does it bother me that Glitch reminded me of at least 5 other stories that I enjoyed? No.
Taken on its own merits, Glitch was a really enjoyable read. The pacing is quick and there’s not a ton of world-building, but it’s direct and understandable. I liked Zoe fine, although I liked Adrien more (despite his frequent and annoying use of future-expletives “cracking” and “shunting”). They jumped quickly from one perilous situation to another, with very little down time, making the reading experience akin to watching an action movie.
I hated Max, and probably my biggest complaint with the book was the fact that Zoe cared so much about him. He was controlling, manipulative and petty. I kept waiting for the book to peel back a layer of his character that would reveal him to be someone I should care about — at all — but every time we learned something about him, it just made me dislike him more. I hope the “love triangle” aspect of the story gets kicked to the curb immediately in the next book.
I found myself vacillating between thinking the characters were behaving in a way that makes sense in a world with no emotions, and thinking there is no way they would act like this if they had no previous experience with emotions. It must have been a hard line to walk in the writing (it would have gotten old, really quickly, for Zoe to have been shocked and confused every time she felt something new, and to never have a name for what she was feeling), but sometimes it just seemed a little odd that she knew exactly what she was feeling.
For example, she seems to have no trouble identifying when she feels angry, or scared, or sad. But she is completely flummoxed when it comes to her feelings of infatuation and friendship. Granted, those are more complex feelings, but the fact that she’s able to so quickly put a name to her negative emotions while being utterly baffled by the positive ones is a bit contradictory.
The superpowers were fun, albeit not explained very well. We’re meant to understand that if a brain can rewire itself to glitch, then it can also rewire itself to have superpowers. And hopefully, you can accept that at face value, because that’s all the explanation we’re given. But in the world of superheroes, suspension of disbelief is a must (after all, other superhero origin stories include a radioactive spider bite, genetic mutation, secret ooze, and accidental exposure to a gamma bomb).
Overall, I’d recommend Glitch to sci-fi and dystopian fans looking for a quick and exciting read with some comic-y cheesiness thrown in for good measure. It’s not going to inspire deep thoughts about the nature of the universe, but it would make a pretty neat Michael Bay movie.
Content guide: contains some violence and sexual content.