Release date: August 29, 2017
In a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked, one girl elects to remain silent rather than pay to speak, and her defiant and unexpected silence threatens to unravel the very fabric of society.
Speth Jime is anxious to deliver her Last Day speech and celebrate her transition into adulthood. The moment she turns fifteen, Speth must pay for every word she speaks (“Sorry” is a flat ten dollars and a legal admission of guilt), for every nod ($0.99/sec), for every scream ($0.99/sec) and even every gesture of affection. She’s been raised to know the consequences of falling into debt, and can’t begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words that she’s unable to afford.
But when Speth’s friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family’s crippling debt, she can’t express her shock and dismay without breaking her Last Day contract and sending her family into Collection. Backed into a corner, Speth finds a loophole: rather than read her speech – rather than say anything at all – she closes her mouth and vows never to speak again. Speth’s unexpected defiance of tradition sparks a media frenzy, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps, and threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.
All Rights Reserved is a speculative fiction about a future where litigation and copyrights have been taken to the extreme, so as to effectively abolish ‘free’ speech. With the exception of a few expressions, every form of communication or word has been copyrighted, or trademarked and the use of every single thing has been patented in such a way that just existing means you have to pay a price. Hugging someone? You need to pay! Talking to someone? You need to pay per word or phrase! In such a world, Speth (whose very name was picked because it costs less) decides to take an impulsive vow of silence when she comes of age at 15. Her silence is so complete that she does not speak or communicate beyond what is considered ‘public domain’ in her world.
The world-building of All Rights Reserved, while confusing at the start, slowly develops throughout the course of the novel, and pulls you in an immersive experience. The handful of times I put the book down for a break, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that my every action had a price. It makes you question how much freedom we take for granted, and how if we aren’t careful we could head towards a world like it. It is speculative, and a bit exaggerated, sure, but also seems plausible, if you think about it. The author, through Speth, brings up the challenges of living in a world without communication, of having to restrict all your thoughts to yourself and never being able to convey anything. Throughout the book, she is offered alternative means of communication that wouldn’t break the laws of her world, but she holds her ‘silence’ as a form of protest and as a matter of principle.
Besides the specific confines of the world, it also builds on the rich-poor divide, and how capitalism is skewed towards the former. This is a world that is built on profiting from the use of things and intellectual property, and it questions how many rights we would sign away in the name of progress. It is however, confined to a city and the scope of the world outside the city is only hinted at, which is why I surmise it is a series. Without going into specifics, I would like to say that I loved her team – they were the cutest thing when they were introduced and I loved how their friendship built up, (also, that profession is simultaneously hilarious and badass) and I also loved the family dynamics of the Jimes. The pacing is a bit slow, and it takes some time for things to really get into gear, though. The villain was a bit one-dimensional, considering I was thinking it was a systemic issue, but I would like to see what the next book contains in terms of obstacles.
This was an interesting speculative dystopia, imaginative and rendered in an engaging manner. Would recommend it for all science fiction fans, specifically.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Harlequin Teen, via Edelweiss.