by Stephen Oram
A rather dystopian take on London in the future, Fluence introduces us to a society determined by your social media status. Pay Day is coming, and this once a year event uses an algorithm to determine your strata for the coming year. Will you move up? Or will you move down?
Amber is currently a Green. She’s married to Terence, also a Green, but unlike Amber, Terence is perfectly happy to be a Green. He lacks the ambition and drive that Amber has for climbing the Strata to Orange. They live in an Orange home provided by Amber’s previous beau. Amber only has visions of going up, even though she does truly love Terence.
Martin is also a green. He has a family, wife Jenny, son Max, daughter Becka. They live in a Green community in the country. Unlike Amber, Martin is barely clinging to Green and fears that dropping to Blue will be the end of his life as he knows it. Jenny persistently pushes Martin to perform better, while their son Max has a hidden life that is helping him to get where he needs to be once he turns 21 and becomes one of the Strata seekers.
Amber and Martin work together for the Bureaucracy. In their department, they determine if people should be White, or those supported by the State. Amber does her job with little compassion or care, only making points to reach the next Strata. Martin has a heart and is bothered by every decision made that adversely affects the people he meets.
As the story continues, we watch as these people interact in this dystopian society. Every moment of their lives not only displayed on social media, but also tracked by the Bureaucracy. One of the things that makes this story appealing is the reality that our society is not far behind this dystopia. Our current society is fixated on social media and status just as this dystopian London is. I think that the similarities are both haunting and interesting.
Oram writes a tale that is thought provoking and entertaining. I wrestled with liking the characters and then despising how manipulative and dishonest they could be due to the circumstances of their lives. Choices they make affects everyone around them. Bumbling Martin can’t seem to make any of the right choices, while Amber makes unsavory choices to try to get ahead. I loved the way that Oram described in full detail some of the places that Amber went for entertainment, the debauchery of the higher strata. His attention to detail really brought the story to life. You can almost smell the beer in Martin’s local pub in the country, hear the accents of those he converses with. The story is rich in detail, which is important in bringing this fictional place to life.
This could also be looked at as a cautionary tale. Could this be where our own society is headed?