Katharine McGee’s first novel has managed to reach the sky, and not just figuratively.
Set in 2118 Manhattan, The Thousandth Floor follows a set of teen characters that live in a glittering sky-high tower they might never want to leave. The ones living on the top floors, that is. It has a wide base that allows streets on its inside, as well as dwellings of all types that ensure the return of the upstairs/downstairs divide of the early twentieth century. Regardless, relationships prove just as tricky for the rich as they do for those living on lower poorer floors, as Avery Fuller, around whom the whole plot revolves, knows well.
Avery lives on the thousandth floor, is genetically engineered to look perfect and can get anything she wants… except for the one thing she really does want. This causes problems with her best friend Leda, a recovering drug addict who has the hots for Avery’s brother. Meanwhile, her other friend Eris faces a life-changing family secret that leads her to life on the lower floors and some illicit meetings that have Leda jumping to the wrong conclusion.
Lower tower teen Watt is a genius at I.T., but when Leda hires him for a shady job, he gets more than he bargained for and now can’t back out, just like Rylin, who juggles with her drug-dealer boyfriend and Eris’ ex till there’s no way out of confronting the truth.
The narrative gives all five main players their own point-of-view chapters, slowly spinning them out of control and pushing them together for the story’s cruel climax. The reader is made to wait with baited breath to find out what really happened in a tale that starts with a tragedy and flashes back to show us the whole story. The prologue’s heavy questions are answered only at the end: Who was the girl that crashed to the pavement from the tower’s roof? And was she pushed, did she fall, or did she jump?
The Hunger Games is set in a futuristic but post-war environment and one of Cloud Atlas’s many storylines is set in 2321/2346, and once again deals with a post-apocalyptic time. The Thousandth Floor instead focuses on a future that builds on the present, making the richer characters slaves to their seemingly perfect and easy lives. Setting is very important in this character-heavy book. Unlike in the aforementioned novels, McGee explores the future with hope and trepidation as her visual of the human race lives in a more evolved setting, but also bearing the weight that comes with serious choices made. The century might have changed, but drug dealing, hacking, affairs and theft are still very much a reality in her predictions for mankind.
The author plays a horrid game with the reader’s mind, giving enough background to the vastly dissimilar personalities to make us care and root for them, only to intertwine the various tales towards a final reckoning that leaves none of them with the chance of peace at the end.
The anticipation and twists in this tale become secondary to the irony of the realism within this imagined world. The glorious comforts of the rich and the sensible maturity of the poor count for nothing when teens will still be their usual obnoxious dreamy selves. After all, all’s fair in love and war.
This teen-oriented new release makes for a pleasant read, and keeps one guessing till the end. Not only that, but it leaves the reader with many questions to answer, even after that final sentence. These characters very evidently have a mind of their own, and even weeks after finishing the book, I’m left wondering as to what would happen next. Will they all keep to their side of the bargain? Or will their world come crashing down a second time even after the end to the written tale? Maybe we’ll eventually find out, as this is apparently the first title in a book trilogy and is rumoured to eventually be turned into a series on ABC as well.
The Thousandth Floor was kindly provided by Agenda Book Shop