Article first published as Book Review: ‘System: With His face in the Sun’ by Jon A. Davidson on Blogcritics.
In “System: With his face in the Sun” author Jon A. Davidson ventures into the not so distant seemingly Utopian future with a “what if” scenario that is all too easy to imagine. Technology has advanced to the point where humans are literally connected to it and rely on the instant, real-time feedback to direct every decision they make, from when it’s time to drink some water to when it’s time to get a new spouse. Most people place absolute trust in the technology and believe that The System is always right; however, when The System tells Wallace Blair his marriage is in transition, Wallace questions it. And while his marriage may be dissolving, Wallace is further distracted when Arthur Blair, who is not only Wallace’s father but the son of one of The System’s creators and a high powered executive within, asks Wallace to run a peculiar errand. Wallace’s errand leads him down a path that has him questioning all he’s ever known about his family, their role in creating The System, and The System itself. The System doesn’t like to be questioned, and what The System giveth, it can taketh away.
The characters are not overly developed, intentionally so, it would seem, because The System seems to strip much of anyone’s individuality away. Readers are given enough information to sketch-out each character, and it is really enough, though personally I would have enjoyed more depth. Author Davidson’s strength comes in his world building, where readers will glimpse not only the advancements in society, but also see the wrath of Mother Nature in a world heavily impacted by overuse and overpopulation. Particularly memorable are the descriptions of Spain and the contrasts between what is and what has been. The constant hum of danger in the background and questions as to whether The System is evil or only a tool keeps readers wary, and engaged, as do the deeper questions of The System is and what happens when society becomes complacent.
While the story follows a definite plot line, and there are a few surprises and a big reveal, there are several sub-stories where readers will expect action, or at least closure, and the stories just fizzle out leaving much unexplained. Readers seeking big action or suspense won’t find it; rather “System: With his face in the Sun” is a slow, contemplative story. One part of the ending is a little disappointing (and because of the lack of characterization, seems incongruous,) and there is no clear resolution; however, readers will be left with many visual impressions and much food for thought.
The writing is well-done, though there is a fair amount of editing that still needs tending, and American readers need to keep in mind that the author is British, which means some differences in writing conventions. Though the cover and the title of the book didn’t initially draw me in, I enjoyed that both ultimately tied in to the story and reading the blurb about the statue made it even more interesting. Jon Davidson has an impressive first novel in “System: With his face in the Sun.” I recommend this book to adult readers and look forward to more stories from Davidson — a prequel, perhaps? I’m in.