When Lucie Sterling’s niece is abducted, she knows it’ll be no easy feat to find answers. Stanton is no ordinary city: invasive digital technology has been banned, by public vote. No surveillance state, no shadowy companies holding databases of information on private citizens, no phones tracking their every move. Only one place stays firmly anchored in the bad old ways, in a huge bunker across town: Green Valley, where the inhabitants have retreated into the comfort of full-time virtual reality–personae non gratae to the outside world. And it’s inside Green Valley, beyond the ideal virtual world it presents, that Lucie will have to go to find her missing niece.
Green Valley is a real slow burn of a novel, I’ll admit it took me a little while to get into, but when it finds it’s feet everything kicks up a notch or two. Lucie’s analogue world feels quaint but immediately frustrating, thinking back to only being able to move as far as your telephone wire will let you, will certainly strike a chord! it’s unsurprising, however, that there would be some who were so entrenched with the digital, that it would seem almost unthinkable to revert to payphones and pen and paper. I was surprised at how small an area Green Valley was, but being faced with a fully immersive “jacked in” society, I would certainly choose to walk away from my computer and keep to the real world.
It’s a stark choice though, one or the other. Families are divided and friendships lost, children not able to decide and having to follow what ever vote their parents took, and what of those born into Green Valley? Lucie though, falls in the middle. Maintaining her relationship with her analogue pioneer boyfriend, whilst secretly coveting the bad old days, I instantly identified with her. I have to love any relationship when the golden rule whilst reading is not to disturb one another until the chapter has ended! But her job in criminal justice was certainly easier with CCTV and DNA databases and never more so when unidentified children begin turning up dead all around town.
The story had a real City and the City feel to it, Louis Greenberg did an amazing job of painting Stanton as an almost beige society, I read it very much picturing the 1970’s/1980’s where concrete architecture was at it’s worst and orange and brown dominated homewares and fashion. It felt cold and a little bleak if I’m honest. Green Valley by comparison, projected like a perpetual infomercial bursting with happy faces and colour.
Lucie’ descent into total immersion into her investigation was very well written, I enjoyed the pacy thriller style as the pieces started to fit into place, with twists and revelations that left me in shock. I found it tough to read at times, the drama taking a darker turn as the true toll of living in a virtual world took shape. I was turning each page with increasing horror as more information filtered through but by this point I felt as immersed as Lucie and just couldn’t stop reading. It was an incredibly atmospheric read, almost oppressive at times, but I truly felt I was in Green Valley with her, holding my breath with her – such skilled writing.
One thing is for certain, it’s made me think a lot about what passes by, even in my own home, when i’m looking at my phone. Although the salutary tale may appear trite, it really had a deep effect on me, Green Valley will certainly be a story that will stay with me for a long time and that reminder from time to time can only be a good thing.