A thought-provoking read

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 May, 2005, 12:00am

What do you think the world will be like in 150 years' time? Nicola Morgan gives a chilling answer to that question in her new novel Sleepwalking, an unsettling vision of what the future could hold for our children's children. Of course, it's only fiction, but the disturbing thing about Morgan's novel is that it has a terrible ring of truth to it.

Human beings are divided into two groups in Morgan's brave new world. The majority are official Citizens, who go about their daily lives under the total control of the Government.

The Citizens have everything provided for them by the State. Their jobs are programmed into their brains at birth, and each Citizen's personality is regulated by State-provided drugs.

There is no place for happiness or sadness in this world. Everyone is safe and content because there is no poverty, no crime and no hardship. The role of a Citizen is to be unquestioning and powerless. The Citizens' world is a daze of nothingness.

And in this world there is no need to communicate. At birth, a computer chip is inserted into each Citizen's brain so the State controls language. In the Citizen's world there is no need for stories, reading or discussion.

But under the surface, all is not well in this perfect world. A small group of humans has escaped the State programming. They are called Outsiders and they live hidden away from the Citizens. The State police are aware of them and kill them whenever they pose a direct threat to State wellbeing. But the Outsiders do not present any great danger, or so the Government thinks.

The Outsiders are developing a secret weapon to destroy the State and all it stands for. For many years, a group of Outsider children has been trained to one day infiltrate the Government and overthrow the dictators. Now is the time for four teenagers to be selected and sent on their mission. Can they succeed in defeating the enemy?

Sleepwalking is effective on many levels. It is an exciting adventure story but it is also about the importance of being an individual, the power of language and the role of the nanny state in looking after its citizens.

These are complicated themes which throw up lots of ideas and debate, but Nicola Morgan doesn't preach or push any political standpoint.

Sleepwalking is a fast-moving, exciting sci-fi story with an intelligence behind it that is missing in many teenage novels. Read it, and think about your future.


By Nicola Morgan

Published by Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 0 340 87733 2

John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com