Narrator: Suzanne Elise Freeman, Scott Brick
Published by Random House Audio on 05-02-23
Genres: Science-Fiction, Thriller
Length: 19 hrs and 55 mins
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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Passage comes a riveting standalone novel about a group of survivors on a hidden island utopia--where the truth isn't what it seems.
Founded by a mysterious genius, the archipelago of Prospera lies hidden from the horrors of a deteriorating outside world. In this island paradise, Prospera's lucky citizens enjoy long, fulfilling lives until the monitors embedded in their forearms, meant to measure their physical health and psychological well-being, fall below 10 percent. Then they retire themselves, embarking on a ferry ride to the island known as the Nursery, where their failing bodies are renewed, their memories are wiped clean, and they are readied to restart life afresh.
Proctor Bennett, of the Department of Social Contracts, has a satisfying career as a ferryman, gently shepherding people through the retirement process--and, when necessary, enforcing it. But all is not well with Proctor. For one thing, he's been dreaming--which is supposed to be impossible in Prospera. For another, his monitor percentage has begun to drop alarmingly fast. And then comes the day he is summoned to retire his own father, who gives him a disturbing and cryptic message before being wrestled onto the ferry.
Meanwhile, something is stirring. The Support Staff, ordinary men and women who provide the labor to keep Prospera running, have begun to question their place in the social order. Unrest is building, and there are rumors spreading of a resistance group--known as "Arrivalists"--who may be fomenting revolution.
Soon Proctor finds himself questioning everything he once believed, entangled with a much bigger cause than he realized--and on a desperate mission to uncover the truth.
Proctor, a fortunate resident of Prospera, inhabits one of three islands in a small, isolated archipelago, and isolated from the rest of the decaying world. The main island, named after the archipelago itself, is the home of a privileged part of society, who live fulfilled and comfortable lives until the monitor they all wear in their arm dwindles to below 10%. When this happens, the person in question is taken by the Ferryman to the boat that will take them to the Nursery, the island where they will be rejuvenated and start a new life, to be taken back to Prospera at the age of sixteen, and start a new cycle. There’s a third island called the Annex, where the support staff lives, and which is connected to Prospera by a causeway.
This idyllic scenario is thrust into chaos for Proctor when he has to retire his own father, who starts to utter nonsensical rambles on the way to the Ferry. It could just be the babble of an old man, but the existence of the Arrivalists–a group of dissenters residing in the Annex–sows seeds of doubt. Their opinions add an unsettling layer to the otherwise serene environment, challenging the status quo of Prospera.
This is a mind-bending book that had me hooked from the get-go. In a world where almost everyone wears a smart tracker, it was easy to see the parallelism with a society where a similar device was the deciding factor in retiring a person, especially if that didn’t mean the death of the person, but just kind of a new opportunity to start again, similar to the cyclical reincarnation concept seen in certain religion. This made Prosperans’ lives relatable, especially on those many mornings when my smart watch alerts me that my battery hasn’t charged enough to have an active and productive day. I wouldn’t live long lives in Prospera, but at least there would be many.
After getting comfortable with how things worked in Prospera, the incident involving Proctor’s father stirs things up, signaling to the reader that not everything that glitters is gold. Could there be something sinister about the Nursery? Why was Proctor’s father, a prominent man in Prospera’s society, so unsettled? If I was already hooked from the start, this was the moment I couldn’t stop listening. Even though this is an almost 20-hour book, I stole so many moments to know what came next, that it was over much earlier than anticipated.
There’s a twist toward the last quarter of the book that completely changes things. It’s mentioned in almost every review, so this isn’t a spoiler. My only comment is that I would have either added the twist closer to the end or made the part after it shorter. Although a necessary part of the story, the narrative loses some charm after it.
I loved both narrators of this book. I found both Scott Brick and Suzanne Elise Freeman very expressive in their narrations. I was confused a couple of times when Scott Brick was doing dialogs, as voices didn’t differ much, but he compensated it with great interpretative skills and passion.
My name is Elena. Since I was a little child I loved science fiction and fantasy, and I can’t resist a good novel. In 2015, while wait I started to listen to audiobooks and I discovered the pleasure in being able to read while doing my daily tasks, so there’s always an audiobook playing on my phone. If you see me with my Bluetooth headphones on, please be gentle, I get easily startled.
I live with my boyfriend, which I met during my six-year stay in Belgium, four cockatiels, eight lovebirds, and a hamster in Madrid, Spain; and I like to spend my free time knitting and sewing while listening to audiobooks.