I always enjoy finding a good surprise read, especially debut novels. I’ve just finished The Detainee by Peter Liney, and I’m already anxious to read the next book in the series. If I had to place its theme and concept, it’d be a mix of Logan’s Run with Lord of the Flies… with a hint of Battle Royale’s oppressiveness.
Here’s an island of garbage, just outside a reasonable swimming distance from the rest of civilization. Regularly scheduled junk drops are made, keeping the island growing and rotting at the same time. The inhabitants consist of two groups, a much larger population of older people who have been blamed for the current political and financial situation of the world and have been cast off to fend for themselves as punishment. The other group consists of the younger generation who are also unwanted by either parents or a government that has no money to support them and no interest in dealing with their insubordination. Both groups are struggling to survive, yet only one of them wants to be left alone…
“Big Guy” has been on the island for a number of years now. Judged by the powers-that-be to have reached an age where he offers no justification for his existence, he has done his best to survive with the other adults, most of them older, feeble, and unable to protect themselves from the attacks of the younger group. Some of the younger group blame the older for their conditions, while others are just following the orders of the Wastelords, older individuals who rule the island with strength and forced drug addiction. The younger group controls the new trash drops and the best choices of whatever is tossed out of society. The older group can barely keep their plastic and pallet-built lean-tos from falling over in a stiff breeze.
A new technology called punishment satellites that monitor for violent activity helps control the world’s population, dishing out immediate punishment depending on the crime with a powerful beam that strikes down from the sky. It keeps order on the island when satellite coverage is good… but when the fog rolls in, that’s when the youth go crazy and dispense their own form of punishment on their elders.
And if you’re considering escaping the island by raft or swimming or some other method… forget it. The punishment is death, delivered instantly by satellite. That doesn’t stop the occasional resident from trying after tiring of this kind of life.
Big Guy just wants to survive. He tolerates the attacks in the fog because he has no choice. He reminisces frequently about his youth when he was the hired muscle for a local crime boss and his sheer size would intimidate anyone with just a look. But not now… he’s in his sixties and he’s lost muscle mass, his hair is thin and gray, and he’s just a survivor like everyone else, foraging in the old junk that is pushed out as new junk comes in and trying to find the next day’s necessities.
It’s during one of these outings that he has a chance encounter with a group of young residents. He makes a surprising discovery that certainly changes his own situation on the island, but he quickly learns you can’t keep secrets on an island where everyone is scared, hungry, and in need of a safe place to hide. What turns into a chance encounter turns the book around and offers hope to not just Big Guy, but all the residents, young and old.
The Detainee had some truly shocking moments to ponder and think over how I might respond. And there are also many questions left unanswered. Just what I like from a series opener. This is just Book 1 of The Detainee Trilogy, so I’m already curious to see where Liney takes the story and some of the characters that have grown on me by the novel’s end. You wouldn’t want to be on this island, but you sure will enjoy getting a glimpse from the comfort of your couch.
Note: I’d like to thank Ashley G. for providing a review copy.