Book Title: Proxy (Proxy Series #01)
Author: Alex London
Number of pages: 384
Knox was born into one of the City’s wealthiest families. A Patron, he has everything a boy could possibly want—the latest tech, the coolest clothes, and a Proxy to take all his punishments. When Knox breaks a vase, Syd is beaten. When Knox plays a practical joke, Syd is forced to haul rocks. And when Knox crashes a car, killing one of his friends, Syd is branded and sentenced to death.
Syd is a Proxy. His life is not his own.
Then again, neither is Knox’s. Knox and Syd have more in common than either would guess. So when Knox and Syd realize that the only way to beat the system is to save each other, they flee. Yet Knox’s father is no ordinary Patron, and Syd is no ordinary Proxy. The ensuing cross-country chase will uncover a secret society of rebels, test both boys’ resolve, and shine a blinding light onto a world of those who owe and those who pay. Some debts, it turns out, cannot be repaid.
(re: Goodreads @ Proxy by Alex London)
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr spoiler-less review:
- Message-oriented with social/economic themes that are basically the plot drivers.
- The characters (although not fleshed out extremely well) tick the boxes from diverse to cliché (incl. an LGBTQ protagonist, a cause-girl, and rich people being rich). There’s also lots of friendship.
- Narrative is fast-paced with alternating POVs spanning only a few days in time and should make for a quick read.
Has a concept like Proxy been written before in literature or television? I feel like it’s been done before but I’m not quite sure…it feels very familiar but I can’t seem to think of what it could be related to. I’m flabbergasted.
Onward to my confusing thought train.
Disclaimer: Potential spoilers inherent to this review from here onward.
So I finally read this and it was certainly more message-oriented than what I could have imagined—but I didn’t hate that (nor was it distasteful by any means). There’s validity in how London has produced his narrative in weaving the necessary social commentary akin to the dystopian subgenre. This book doesn’t necessarily fall into the same trope pitfalls as the written elements seem self-aware, tangibly relevant, and is semi-fitting to the world presented to readers. What I mean by this is that once you overlook the techie/sci-fi angle of this novel or even the fact that while the characters are generally-fun-but-are-actually-normal-kids, the thematic driver of disparity is what allows this concept to resonate.
The perspective considers a future when humans put themselves in a position where economic inequality becomes more than simply a line drawn in the sand but rather the truth that both groups (the rich and the poor) are more connected than simply the six-degrees of separation. This whole shebang is what would otherwise be known as the social aphorism of the rich getting richer—with a certain twist that gives new meaning to a life for a life. It takes the once unspoken truth of consideration given and taken, or contractual obligations and debts if you will, to suggest the idea that individuals born into poverty face undue hardships as a proxy to those living a higher lifestyle. The rich (known as patrons) play the role of God in enjoying minimalistic suffering and consequence as proxies exist to endure misfortunes and debts for the place of these higher beings. Moreover, the crux of this system allows proxies to earn their keep to remove themselves out of the proxy program (re: being bound to a patrons’ debts) often taking several years upon achieving such a feat. For Syd (proxy), it was a dream to be realised; to get himself out of paying punishments and unexpected dues he never knew he had to the individual he’s never met before. For Knox (patron), he’s always known who his proxy was and the life he’s shared with him. Proxies and patrons don’t meet—they’re simply on different sides of the coin. But then their worlds collide.
The story follows Syd and Knox in a dual-POV narration not bogged down as their perspectives swap; often every other chapter. Typical issues involving multiple voices losing its tension and steam when alternating (especially in a suspense-driven environment) is easily alleviated by each character’s story being nearly one and the same. And despite the potential for both voices having the same tone, I found that it was easy to distinguish whose head we were in. Though the world feels much larger than what is displayed, the narrow scope calls to attention the underlying backdrop without much fuss over the immaculate nitty-gritty details that readers still might want to learn more about.
There’s a keen sense of consumerism involved tying into the influential marketing being constantly revolutionized into a near science of the business trade; of which has become the highlight social issue in this novel. Of course the higher echelon lifestyle finds distaste in all things natural and not scientifically modified. Of course artificial intelligence and augmented reality has become standard. Of course there are things in their world like biofeeds; a network of a person’s genetic makeup where advertisements and the like are sent to you constantly based on everything neurological. (Yes, that means you can’t clean your Internet browsing history and cache. Take that, net neutrality!) While individuals are genetically cut from the same metaphorical stone (well, I’d hope so at least), there’s detail in advancing science that are definitely downplayed by the nonchalance of the protagonists but are more there for forethought to what can become of humanity.
Nonchalance, you say? Yes—that makes assessing them quite the doozy. When characters have no tangible conviction despite having justifiable backgrounds to support their skills and traits…what ends up happening is readers begin to marginalize the level of care for them. I mean, why invest in something half-baked anyways? The tricky part is that, personally, I did somewhat care for them. And this is where the whole average-Joe-Schmoe world-saving trope teeters on success and failure. Being average doesn’t seem to have perks. You’re simply not the strongest, smartest, or flawless; and you’re certainly not a role-model readers aspire to be. But what you lack is made up in relevance and realism. Power can come from understanding your limitations; your strengths, weaknesses, and the plethora of external forces that are there even if it’s yet to be realised. It’s to know when to ask for help knowing you’re only one person—and you don’t hold all the cards. It is by being immaculately present and self-aware which makes the protagonists, primarily Syd, a stellar character. Knox, on the other hand, just seemed like a big angst-filled child whose development is lacking if left on his own but is made up in spades with his bromance relationship with Syd. While they didn’t deliver much of an emotional impact, with many avenues of intrigue to learn about each character, Proxy actually fleshes them out in a way that puts the characters in the backseat to the themes being dabbled in.
That’s what’s specifically important to this novel—the knowledge that the average Joe is the hero. While the characters do play pivotal roles in driving the story along, they do not undermine the integrity of the social dialogue London has set to achieve. I think one takeaway readers will grapple onto with the characters is that “oh, this story has a gay teenager.” But is that what the entire novel amounts to? No, it shouldn’t be. So it has the black sheep of protagonists being a number in the LGBTQ statistic becoming an unsung hero despite not wanting to. So what? Syd doesn’t let his sexual orientation define him to be put in some cookie-cutter category just so others can understand him as a person; and the characters in the novel don’t ostracize him for that either. So despite a readers need for categorical understanding, my hopes in this novels takeaway is that Syd’s sexual orientation be after-the-fact and not being led with if readers ever promote Proxy to someone else. (And yes, I included gay protagonist in the TL;DR above. Such hypocrisy, but that’s a condensed version of this whole thing–so hate on me.)
There are few issues I have with this novel which is difficult for me to produce a well-thought discussion on based on simply the first book. To be blunt, I could have done without the savior that will come save us all from peril trope. While this is widely popular and can work in favour of the novel, I actually found this aspect to be kind of lacklustre mainly due to the aforementioned character development in this first instalment. While I imagine it was supposed to incite a shift in plotting, the necessary gradual acceptance of the concept was hard to buy into. That’s all I’ll say about that.
In the beginning, I mentioned Proxy should be considered message-oriented in nature than much else to come to understand its resulting just ending. It cannot be said that the story is complete—it’s far from it but also one that can be left up for open-interpretation. My perceptions on the ending are understood in two-fold; and while that may not be the intent of the author, it’s how I read into it. So does this open-interpretation to provoke the essence of finality? Yes, it could be the end if you so deem it to be. Does it mean it is? Not really. It’s completion is superficial but one that puts the onus on the reader to put thematic-first and characters-second, to want to follow the next installment. The saying goes to leave no stone unturned; but once flipped over, it’s what comes next that truly matters…and those parts are just beginning.
//end of book review.
I am most certainly still alive.
Added sub-headings to aid the unnecessarily long read. Hopefully they help. Not sure if there’s continuity to it considering each book is uniquely different.