- Pro Review
- Discovery Awards
By T.J. Sachs
How would you like to be happy all the time? And what if doing so wasn’t merely a personal commitment to positive thinking, but an actual government-mandated banishment of bad thoughts? That, in a nutshell, is the question that forms the basis of T.J. Sachs’ debut novel BETERA’S FACTOR. The plot of the book is somewhat reminiscent of the “The Matrix,” with a touch of “Blade Runner” and “Star Wars” thrown in. Set in a dystopian future, it tells the story of Crawford Lear, an engineer hero who is seeking to free humanity from a false consciousness that’s creating the impression that everything is okay.
In the world of BETERA’S FACTOR, good feelings have been institutionalized to the point in which citizens are literally forced to be happy. It’s the sort of story, familiar in the sci-fi genre, of a futuristic technology that sounds good on the surface, but in reality is the precursor for civilization-wide evil, which is enforced with military and sentinels. The Beta Union’s constitution is described as “a code despising everything but joy, which robbed its citizens of the capacity to experience all their feelings.” Constitutions, alas, were made to be broken. It’s therefore up to Crawford, who has special psychic powers, to take on the power structure of the Beta Union habitat–named for its creator, the titular Betera Eaton–to bring about change.
The 354-page book can be a bit difficult to follow and also drags at times. But Sachs’ novel takes its premise in some surprising and creative directions, while also successfully building a compelling, and at times, chilling world. It would be a reach to draw too many lessons from this story in terms of specific modern-day political considerations, nor does the book attempt to draw them. Nevertheless, it’s always good to be reminded of the dangers of overzealous technology and government.
Sachs, a longtime sci-fi enthusiast who previously wrote a collection of personal essays, lists Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick and Frank Herbert as influences, which makes sense given the novel’s style and tenor. The book leads up to a shocking twist–and per Sachs’ website, a sequel, BETERA’S LEGACY, is already in the works.
While BETERA’S FACTOR can be difficult to follow at times, it’s a winning debut novel about a dystopian society, a plot to free the masses, and the shocking truth of what’s behind it all.
~Stephen Silver for IndieReader