Book: Coda by Emma Trevayne
Plot summary (from Goodreads):
Ever since he was a young boy, music has coursed through the veins of eighteen-year-old Anthem—the Corp has certainly seen to that. By encoding music with addictive and mind-altering elements, the Corp holds control over all citizens, particularly conduits like Anthem, whose life energy feeds the main power in the Grid.
Anthem finds hope and comfort in the twin siblings he cares for, even as he watches the life drain slowly and painfully from his father. Escape is found in his underground rock band, where music sounds free, clear, and unencoded deep in an abandoned basement. But when a band member dies suspiciously from a tracking overdose, Anthem knows that his time has suddenly become limited. Revolution all but sings in the air, and Anthem cannot help but answer the call with the chords of choice and free will. But will the girl he loves help or hinder him?
Type of post-apocalyptic story: The world ended many years ago, possibly over 100 years ago. It’s very vague as to how that happened, it could have been disease, global climate change, or war, but there were a lot of injured people and music was found to soothe and heal them them – so music became a tool to control the population and maintain behaviour. There is no mention of other countries or population centres outside where Anthem lives in the story.
I picked up this book as it was nominated for a Bisexual fiction award. Anthem is bisexual. In this book he is interested in one of the female characters, but he is still friends with his ex-boyfriend, and they spend a fair amount of time clubbing together in the book. For a story about a bisexual man, I recommend this. It was good on many other elements. too. I read this a while ago, so my memory is a little rusty.
World Building: Apart from no mention of other population centres, the world is believable. There are ruins of the world before surrounding the world as it is today in the story. There is a police state that is working on getting things done, maintaining their own power, and control. There is a class system of the haves and have nots based on current wealth, and it is almost possible to move between them, but not likely for most people.
The technology is incredible, the ability to encode music with subliminal messages/beats that makes it addictive, as well as controlling mood and improving people’s ability to heal. The ability for people to be bio-generators of power to power the city, the ability for people to record their lives so that after they die others can still see them, like the way we record things on our phones.
Character Building: So the main character is male and bisexual, a combination which is really rare in a book. Also, everyone else is pretty much ok with bisexuality (nice), and queerness in general (also nice). The characters have different motivations for doing things, they have their own back stories and women are treated as equally capable as men. When Anthem believes that the woman he is interested in has betrayed him, he doesn’t believe that it is because she’s a woman, or that she’s weak.
Women: So Anthem’s love interest in this story is a woman and she’s a fully rounded character, with multiple depths to her. There is also Anthem’s … handler (I’m really not quite sure what the correct word is) at the bio-generation plant who ensures that he is plugged in correctly and has something to read/occupy his time while he’s there. There are several baddies who are also women. None of these characters are single dimensional, and none of them are sex objects.
Non-white characters: There are a range of non-white characters in the book. Anthem is blond-haired and blue-eyed. Haven, his love interest, has olive skin. Another one of the characters is described as being so dark, that in the darkened, disused space that they’re performing music in, he’s difficult to see.
Disabled Characters: Although there are no visible disabilities mentioned, there is the theme of addiction and the ruination that can cause throughout the book. Anthem lost his mother to her addiction to the Corp’s music, and is in the process of losing his father. There is an acknowledgement of mental health issues, and the characters are familiar with depression and anxiety.
Queer Characters: Anthem is bisexual, his ex, Scope, is gay, there are other queer characters in the book. There are straight characters. Orientation isn’t an issue in this version of the future. It’s nice to see a future where who you are attracted to is not an issue and nothing to be ashamed of.
There were no trans characters that I am aware of in the book.
There is a reason this book was nominated for an award. It does a lot of things right, and I really enjoyed it.