*Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
In the future, death is not a problem. The human consciousness gets regularly copied onto servers so that, once you die, you can join Upterlife, literally a virtual utopia. Of course, there are rules. You cannot get in to Upterlife if you are a suicide, if you are a criminal or if the dead judge you to be unworthy. You prove your worth by serving the dead, who have the greatest political say since there are many more of them than there are living. The living have to suffer through soul crushing work and being under constant surveillance by the dead. Amichai, however, has other plans for his life.
For being based in a world where the dead are connected to everything and the living can connect with each other easier than ever, this book is all about disconnection. The dead no longer have to breathe, eat or sleep so in the many years they've been dead, they've lost touch with the needs of the living. The highly educated director of Amichai's orphanage has several degrees in adolescent psychology but has no clue how to deal with actual teenagers. The living care more about their Upterlife demo time than they do connecting with other living humans. The Neo-Christians are divided into more sects than contemporary Christianity and do not communicate openly as a precaution against involuntary brain scan interrogation. It's really hard not to see parallels to today's real world concerns.
I'll admit, there were a few tropes in this book. It takes a rebellious teenager to really set things in motion. You have one guy who's the leader of dead and who is willing to sacrifice the living to meet his goals. You have a mentor who is actually more invested in the rebellion than the main character thought. You even have a love triangle.
Where this book diverges, however, is much more important and poignant. I actually made a comment on Twitter about how where most books would have ended and set up for a sequel, this book just keeps on going (in a good way). The end of this book is a true ending and I'm not wanting this to have a sequel, for all the right reasons. I really feel that this story line is complete. There are no loose threads or questions that still need to be resolved. I thank the author for this; plot holes and loose threads are pain.
Best of all, this was a very engaging book. I accidentally had a couple long lunch hours because I just needed to keep reading. The characters are well thought out in their personalities and philosophies. It was really easy to feel for them. The world of this book is easy to get into and understand. Heck, one of the villains from this book was so good he kept catching me off guard because I kept underestimating him.
I really enjoyed this book and, if you're a fan of dystopian books, a fan of books about society, I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy this one. 4.5 hoots!