This is one of the most interesting Science Fiction novels I've read in a long time. What makes Jemma7729 stand out is the strong heroine and the feminist issues Wray weaves in the story, making the reader wonder and think at its implications.
It is the late 22nd century in the United States. The government as we know it has completely collapsed. People live under huge city domes, afraid of what lies on the outside. Brainwashed by AGNA — the State Security of the Administrative Government of North America — they have been told to be believe that the 'outside' is toxic and inside the dome is the only safe place for them. Feminism has vanished. Indeed, any type of feminist idea is violently suppressed and women are accused of the destruction of democracy and the 'old regime'.
The story is told in the first person by Jemma herself, and begins when she is but a stubborn, willful young girl of seven. From the very beginning she questions her world and its laws, a behaviour that only leads to her punishment and incarceration at the tender age of ten. The event emotionally destroys her loving parents, but it's either that or death for Jemma. The few years she spends incarcerated, however, only serve to harden her more and make her more rebellious. She has high ambitions and feels she's destined for something great.
More than anything, she desires — while overthrowing a corrupt and oppressive government — to help her people, to make women realize that there's more for them than simply being housewives or mothers, and to enlighten the citizens about what's outside the city domes – freedom and hope for all. And the first thing she must do is escape. Will Jemma succeed? Will she live to overthrow the government and see the freedom of her people in spite of the prize that's being put on her head?
Jemma7729 is a clever and thought-provoking novel with lots of action. The narrative moves at a quick pace, propelled by Jemma's sharp wit and crisp dialogue. But at the center of it all is Jemma herself – brave, rebellious, definitely too strong for her own good, yet sensitive at the same time. Wray has painted a vivid world filled with original, interesting rules and way of life, transporting the reader to another place and time. I highly recommend this novel not only to fans of SF, but also to those readers who enjoy women's fiction.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the author, Phoebe Wray, here at Blogcritics.