Vendeka's Creed
by Anthony Aquan-Assee, M.Ed.

"#1 - Obey Vendeka at all times; #2 - Protect Vendeka at all times; #3 - Never hide anything from Vendeka; and #4 - Always respect the creed"

High school is a hard time for Jesse Biggsee. Despite his skill at computer programming and video games, he faces constant pressure from the other kids at school and even his own stepfather and brother. Desperate to fit in or at least stop the constant bullying and neglect from all but one teacher, Jesse secretly begins training to try and make the school football team. All kinds of obstacles get in the way of his reaching this goal, but none quite as persistent or aggressive as Gouchindon Rayner, or The Gouch. The son of the Minister of National Defence and the most popular kid in school, The Gouch sadistically loves to make Jesse’s life a living hell whenever possible, especially now that Jesse is trying to become a part of his football team.

Meanwhile, the country passes legislation that requires all citizens to get an ID chip implanted in their dominant hand in order to tighten security along borders and in public spaces. As the populace goes along with this government order compliantly, a mysterious computer hacker named Vendeka is actually the one responsible for this directive and similar ones in countries across the globe. In so doing, he is able to create a computer network that monitors the global population and eliminates any potential threats to his power swiftly and quietly. A violent accident puts Jesse in the hospital as these events are just beginning to play out in Canada, and when he awakens from his coma years later, a clerical error makes him immune to Vendeka’s surveillance. With his ability to move off the grid and his computer programming prowess, Jesse aims to topple Vendeka’s Big Brother state once and for all.

Combining a coming-of-age young adult story with a relevant brand of police-state science fiction, this is a quick, satisfying read from start to finish. Opening with teenage angst and the desire to belong socially, the book continues at this pace for nearly half its length, hinting at darker machinations before veering quickly in a different direction and forcing the audience along for the ride. This transition is not jarring, as there are plenty of hints and foreshadowing, but the method by which the author creates and releases tension is thrilling and sure to shock any reader. Casting Jesse as the outsider hero looking for acceptance and love even from as close a place as his own family is an effective choice that creates an instant underdog hero readers will gravitate toward.

The subject matter of surveillance and a constantly networked society serve as a timely and effective vehicle for conflict. Combining classic Orwellian science fiction themes with the sensibilities and political climate of the modern day will make the audience take a cautious thought as to how much information they put out into the world (and who might be using that data) as Aquan-Assee’s slightly dystopian future shows more than a passing resemblance to the digital privacy concerns that continue to plague our lives. Perfectly themed for teenage readers but compelling fiction for adults as well, this novel is a thrilling journey that keeps the audience in the moment while looming a major conflict just on the horizon at all times.

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