July 25, 2013


by R.J. Crayton
254 pages, Kindle Edition

Review by: J.S. Colley

Note: I received a free copy for review purposes.

In this dystopian thriller, R.J. Crayton tackles more than one controversial subject.

The world's population has shrunk to drastic levels due to a series of pandemics, and new laws have been introduced in an attempt to ensure the continuation of humankind. FoSS (formerly part of the United States) requires strict adherence to these laws, and to the ideology behind the "Life First" campaign, in return for citizenship. Ostensibly for their health and well-being, every citizen is implanted with a life monitoring system, but the computer chip can also be used as a tracking device. A heavy penalty is imposed on anyone who tries to shirk responsibility toward a fellow citizen, as dictated by the government.

The free-thinking protagonist, Kelsey Reed, has been marked to donate a kidney to a man who is her biological match. But Kelsey doesn't fully embrace the "Life First" mantra and all it implies. Should she be forced to put her own health in peril for a stranger? Shouldn't it be her choice? She makes it clear that she'd willingly give a kidney to her best friend, or even someone she doesn't know, if it was her decision and not a bureaucrat’s. Crayton presents a chilling scenario of just how powerful a government can become under the pretense of "doing good."

While the basis for this novel is forced organ donation, some parallels are drawn to abortion. For sake of this review—because I know this issue will come up in the reader's mind—one could argue there is a significant difference. In the case of abortion, the woman's actions (where it was her decision!) led to the pregnancy. Therefore, her responsibility for that life is innately greater, compared to the life of a stranger. Birth control fails. No matter how responsible a sexually active woman tries to be, there are still risks and, by taking that risk, the woman has already made a choice. And, one could argue, this is precisely where the parallels begin to diverge. But, no matter where you fall in the midst of current political arguments—right, left, or somewhere in the middle—Crayton lays out a solid, logical argument for Kelsey's decisions, and I would be loath to have to debate her on any subject.

Life First is a thought-provoking novel. Not all readers will agree with the implications, but isn't that what a good novel is supposed to do? Make us think? I would venture to say this novel will lead to a lot of discussion.

If you like dystopian thrillers, then you'll enjoy this well-written novel and will be waiting, impatiently, for the next in the series.

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