The Ones (The Ones #1) by Daniel Sweren-Becker (2016)
YA Fiction | Sci-Fi
“Cody has always been proud of being a One. She and her boyfriend James were two of the lucky babies from the 1% of the U.S. population that were randomly selected to benefit from genetic engineering. Now, she and the rest of The Ones are excelling. They are healthy, beautiful, and talented. They aren’t otherworldly, just perfect. And to some, that’s not fair. The Equality Movement, capitalizing on the growing fear and jealousy, gains political traction and actually outlaws their existence. Society shows its darker side as The Ones are marginalized. The line between right and wrong blurs in the face of injustice and Cody becomes closer to a group of radical Ones intent on fighting back. James begins to fear just how far she is willing to go for the cause.”
Expected Publication Date: September 6, 2016
pooled ink Review:
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy to review!
This book begins with no slow or considerate exposition, rather it lifts the black curtains to unveil a horrifying ugliness. We are disoriented, and confused, and everything is scary and vague. Unsure of exactly what is happening all we know is that a young freedom fighter is being ruthlessly tortured subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques” by her own country. That’s how this book begins.
From there the story rewinds itself to that pivotal day, the day the whole country crowded around their television sets to await the Supreme Court’s judgment. And from there the story unfolds as we bear witness to the chaos that follows.
The main premise of this book revolves around genetically modified humans called “the Ones.” A lottery selects embryos to be genetically altered and perfected – out with the diseases and weaknesses, and in with the beauty and strengths. Sounds awesome, right? But years have gone past and as these children have grown into adults finding themselves thriving in the world their jealous peers and colleagues have become angry, defensive, and hateful. The Ones have been given unfair advantages! It’s not fair!
All it took was one little spark to set the country ablaze with a powerful inferno of growing hatred and resentment. The Equality Movement is armed and growing by the day. They fight for equality…but by equality they mean that they’ll do anything to eradicate the “mistake” that are the Ones. Not everyone will stand for that, many of the Ones refuse to lie down and be steamrolled. These people have formed a group called the New Weathermen. To the Movement and its supporters (so basically almost the entire U.S.) this is a fight for a restoration of equality, but for the Weathermen, the Ones and their few supporters, this is a fight against legalized genocide. The E.M. fights for equality, the Ones fight for equality…but in true human tradition it all just becomes a muddled mass of bloodshed, terror, and chaos.
People are way too obsessed with the concept of equality. True equality is a figment of an ideal imagination. I obviously support the casual definition of equality (such as I believe that everyone should have equal rights) but not the literal definition. There are an infinite amount of factors, both internal and external, that are constantly altering with every passing micro-second of time to ever allow absolute equality. The concept of and even the word “equality” is too easily manipulated and perverted. A better goal to aim for, in my opinion, is respect. Accept that not everyone is the same, accept that there will always be someone better and someone worse off than you, accept that there is next to nothing that you can do to change any of it. If you respect someone then those differences don’t matter, instead they turn into the things that make a person unique, special, valuable, and individual.
Why does everyone have to be equal anyway? I sure don’t want to be equal with others in the sense that I like being good at somethings and not as good at others. I like that about people. I respect people until they do something to lose that respect, but even then respect can always be earned back. Not even nature is equal! No two plants, animals, or stones are the same and that’s exactly what makes nature so effing beautiful. I know people don’t mean to use the word “equality” as a synonym for “same” but if you keeping pushing it eventually that’ll be the only answer, the only solution, the only result, the only way for everyone to be truly equal. So quit sweet-talking your idiotic propaganda and just start giving people the respect they deserve. Respect is based on character, not skin color, not intellect, not talent, not body shape, not any of those things. That’s how enemies can become allies or allies mutate into enemies, they gain or lose respect based on character.
Maybe that’s why I have a love-hate relationship with dystopian genre books. On one hand I love basking in the adrenaline and glory of taking down a failed attempt at a utopia of equality and control. But on the other hand even reading about people’s twisted visions of utopias fills me with hate fire. I hate how almost every dystopian novel is similar to one another, not because of the book itself but because it shows how atrociously predictable humans can be. No matter how much we declare we have learned, we have reached a higher moral plane, we know better…the same mistakes will, have, and are repeating themselves. (Do you have Netflix? Watch Look Who’s Back (2014), a German film about if Hitler popped up today. The movie is hilarious…and also a touch staggering. Or just read the news and there’s a literal example of this). People can be atrociously unfair in their noble quest towards fairness.
…I also have a love-hate relationship with ethics & philosophy. Humans make my brain hurt. Because, at the end of the day, we are gloriously imperfect creatures and therefore no matter how long or how desperately we try there will never be a concluding answer. Like I said earlier, there’s simply way too many factors that play into life. (Ha, sorry for probably coming across as a cynical prick. These types of stories just really wind me up. I’m definitely Benjamin from Animal Farm haha).
Back to the book!
I love the part when the Ones are forced into a condescending version of community service at school and some of the non-Ones join them in solidarity. Standing up for your own people makes a statement, but standing up for another people sends a whole different message. When a figure of power stands beside the powerless, when a majority member stands beside the minorities, when a German stands with the Jews, when a white person stands beside a non-white person, when an aristocrat stands beside the pauper. The power of such an act really sends a hard slap across the face of the self-entitled oppressor. It shows cracks in the supposed validation the oppressor has in degrading those “beneath” them. People would expect the minority members to fight back and resist, but neither side expects a majority member/power figure to fight with them. That symbolic declaration of allegiance causes both sides to stumble: the minority party will question their motives and the majority party will be feel betrayed. Regardless it will jolt the situation. When you’re willing to stand up against injustice, even when it doesn’t directly affect you, it creates a powerful show of unity that will claw at the noose’s fibers until the victims are set free and the hangman stands aghast and alone.
The plot rushes forwards at an accurately surreal pace. It might seem too fast to some but the truth is people are quick to act out. A court decision, a law passed, and the world turns upside down. The tempo was quick and urgent but never actually pushed. Rather the plot is written as a natural escalation of events, one moment leads to another snowballing at a terrifying rate right up to the very end where you’ll find yourself wide-eyed and horrified just as the screen turns black leaving you quaking and sweating needing to know what will happen next.
Overall the concept is intriguing. It’s not anything new like some crazy alternate universe type of scheme, but rather the author takes an idea that has been explored for decades, brings it to a simple reality, and from there we witness the inevitable. And it really was all quite inevitable, wasn’t it?
Characters! The protagonists Cody and James are almost two sides of the same coin. They both want equality and justice for the Ones but their approach differs greatly. Cody wants to fight back, stand up and make the government back down. James wants to be peaceful and abide by the new rules until it all blows over. As things heat up and the hatred escalates it is clear that James’ acquiescent approach is an ineffective tactic…but is Cody’s wild retaliation any better? After everything that has shattered their lives James abandons his head-down hopes and seeks for a balance, some sort of strong but passive resistance, but Cody has just become more hardened and determined for revenge.
We meet the faces of the two extremist groups: the government/the Equality Movement and the New Weathermen. The military vs. the rebel militia. Kai seems to lead the New Weathermen group posted near Shasta, CA and he recruits Cody after sensing her ferocity and passion. Cody looks to him as an answer but could he become her downfall? James doesn’t agree with the government nor this “terrorist group” but he does know one thing for sure, he loves Cody and he will do whatever it takes to protect her.
This book is absolutely riddled with ethical and moral dilemmas. Motives are complicated and complex, the search for solutions has them wading through impossible chaos, and through all this insanity we are left wondering: what the heck is “the Ark”???
The Ones blasts open the beginning to a sci-fi series blistering with discrimination, genetic modifications, and unanswerable ethical dilemmas. Set in an uncomfortably close future this book will make your heart race and your mind reel with the awe-inducing possibilities and the shockwaves that could come with them.
P.S. This would probably make a pretty good movie. Just saying (:
Purchase here: The Ones
Similar Recommended Reads: The Barcode Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, The Calling by James Frey, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Hatred Day by T.S. Pettibone, Legend by Marie Lu
Meet Daniel Sweren-Becker!
An author, television writer and playwright living in Los Angeles. He has written for ABC, USA, MTV and Nickelodeon, and his play Stress Positions premiered in New York at the SoHo Playhouse. He grew up in Manhattan, before attending Wesleyan University and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Nowadays he spends his free time beaching it up, chasing down all of LA’s new ice cream sandwiches and teaching creative writing at 826LA’s community center. The Ones is his debut novel.