This is the first book in the bar code duology by Suzanne Weyn. It was a very good book, with engaging characters and a fast-paced plot that made the book difficult to put down.
In the year 2025 almost everyone has a bar code tattoo. It is not law yet, but most people get a bar code when they turn seventeen. At a few days to her birthday Kayla is trying to decide what to do; should she get the tattoo? See the thing is that her dad got the tattoo seven months ago and since then he has been a different person, depressed and miserable. Kayla wonders if the bar code has something to do with it. She ends up getting involved with a rebellious faction called Decode that is fighting against the bar code. Unfortunately the bar code is on its way to becoming law. The president of the US is part of the corporation doing the bar code tattoo and this corporation runs everything from the schools to the hospitals. What will Kayla choose? As she notices society getting stranger and stranger and notices more weird things happening to both the un-tattoed and the tattooed she is uncertain.
Overall this was a wonderful book. The characters are engaging. The premise is interesting, and Weyn takes it to lengths that are horrifying and frighteningly realistic. The pace of the book is relentless, the action never stops and you are pulled from disaster to disaster. For such a short book there is a ton packed in here both in action and in thought provoking material. Has this type of thing be written about before? Yeah, it sure has. Just think about Scott Westerfield’s Uglies series and you have an example right there (of course that was published after this book) another example would be the Tripods series by John Christopher or some of Neal Stephenson’s works. Still, Weyn does a great job making the story realistic and has the story centered around a young woman which was interesting.
I do have a couple pet peeves about this story though. These are mainly personal and of a technical nature. I have unfortunately worked with bar codes and RFIDs personally and I know that you can only hold a small amount of data on a 2D bar code like Weyn describes. With a little tiny bit of research Weyn would have known this. I realize it’s a fantasy but it bothered me. The other thing that bothered me was the character’s inconsistent technological know how. At one point Kayla says, “Send me your new web address, I’ll e-mail you all the time.” Okay, this is just odd I mean a web address is for a website, not to email someone. Really, you shouldn’t screw that up in a sci-fi techno novel like this. The last thing that bothered me was when Kayla was at a house initially she was all worried about the government being able to track her computer use. Then later when she is hiding out with a rebel group, she decides to use the dusty old computer there. Then when someone tracks it she is, uh duh, I didn’t realize that someone could track me here. Wow, that is just completely inconsistent!
Besides the above complaints, I enjoyed the book. I just tried to shrug the techno inconsistencies aside. This is a quick read and overall an interesting and fun read. I wish the small inconsistencies had been fixed, then this book would have been spectacular. Still, I am excited to read the next (and last) book “The Bar Code Rebellion”.