Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The End of Marking Time - C. J. West

Gifted housebreaker, Michael O'Connor, awakens inside an ultramodern criminal justice system where prison walls are replaced by surveillance equipment and a host of actors hired to determine if he is worthy of freedom. While he was sleeping, the Supreme Court declared long term incarceration to be cruel and unusual punishment and ordered two million felons released. The result was utter chaos and the backlash from law-abiding citizens and police departments reshaped the United States. Felons now enter reeducation programs where they live freely among the population. At least that's what they think. In reality they are enslaved to an army of counselors and a black box that teaches them everything they failed to learn from kindergarten through adulthood. Michael believes he's being tested by the black box, but what he slowly begins to realize is that everything he does is evaluated to determine whether he lives or dies.
Synopsis taken from goodreads.

Title: The End of Marking Time
Author: C. J. West
Genre: Adult Fiction, Futuristic, Crime thriller
Publisher: 22 West Books
Publication Date: May 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
Source: Received from author. Many thanks goes to C.J. West for sending me a copy of his book for review. I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
Look for it: Amazon, Book Depository.
My rating: 3/5

This review contains spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.

The world is a far different place when Michael wakes up from a coma. He had been on his way to prison when he was shot, and from there, he ended up serving most of his time while in a coma. When he wakes up, the rules have changed and there is no "prison" anymore. Rather, there is a black box and anklet to track his every move. He is to be rehabilitated, and based on his response to the rehabilitation procedures, he will be allowed to go free, or he will be terminated. 
This new futuristic justice system has its flaws, but for the most part it works on the first time offenders. Repeat offenders have to deal with stiffer penalties, and relinquish all control over their lives. Michael, for the most part, is set with these offenders, and he is told that he will have to go to school courtesy of the black box, and learn how to read, as well as participate in activities from other classes if he has a chance to ever lose the ankle monitor. 
Michael is a conflicted character as the only way he knows how to earn his keep is to continue breaking and entering houses, but what he doesn't realize is that everything he says or does is monitored, and his actions even outside of his new apartment are being graded. As Michael learns about the new system, and all it encompasses, so we too learn about it. Michael is an affable character, one with a penchant for resorting back to his criminal ways, but he does start to realize that he needs to straighten up. He learns to read, and enjoys it. He meets the son he never knew he had, and he relates his story with a straightforward appeal as he informs the reader of his past history, and how he may or may not have been predisposed towards the criminal lifestyle he has lived. It is heartening to see that he wants to better himself, and that the system could work for him. 
Alas, my real and only complaint with this book is just how the system worked for him. With everything stacked against him, it was unfortunate how the book turned out. Going with this new justice system, and his newfound appreciation for straightening out, Michael was well on his way towards a new life, but the sudden reveals at the end of the book lacked belief, and certain characters seemed overly whiny. I would have found the ending more believable if it had been laid out more like the same format as the rest of the book had been. Unfortunately I found it quite rushed, and therefore it lacked the quality and detail that Michael's story had been given from the beginning. I sympathized with his character, and though I didn't agree with how he obtained some of the information for his quest, I didn't think he deserved the judgement he received. 
Overall, Michael's story is a unique one; of a futuristic criminal system that terminates those who are deemed unable to be rehabilitated. The opening pages drew me in instantly and I became invested in the outcome as I found Michael trying to better himself. This is one of those books that will resonate long after it is read, and I think fans of crime thrillers will find it an enjoyable, thought-provoking read. For what it's worth, I would have pushed the green button based on the fact that I thought he was showing signs of redemption and I didn't think he was a lost cause.

1 comment:

YA Book Queen said...

That's disappointing that it seemed a bit rushed. Thanks for the honest review :D