A Unique Dystopian Near-Future Story
4.75 out of 5 stars
Terms of Service: Subject to Change Without Notice has to be one of the worst books imaginable for SEO or even searches in general. I guess the only worse title would be “Terms and Conditions”. The title, while perfect for the book, has to be listed millions of times on the internet. I realized this as I started to prep writing my review and thought, well no one is organically going to find this! I hope that isn’t the case for Stanfill because this book was interesting and unique. A telling tale of what could happen in the near future.
So, I went into this one pretty excited. The synopsis talks about some of my favorite books and movies and usually when I see that many different titles mentioned I get a little wary. If you’re cocky enough as an author to put all of those comparisons in your blurb, you’d better pull it off. Well, thankfully, I think that Stanfill did a pretty darn good job pulling it off. Now, I didn’t see as much of the Matrix or Blade Runner, but definitely, those old-school dystopian books mixed with a few of the newer ones I’ve read (especially a book that I read and for some reason didn’t review, Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling).
Terms of Service shows what could happen if we continue to let corporations into our lives more and more. Stanfill did a good job not naming anyone and actually kept it so simple as to be “the food company” and “the transportation company”. It takes things like the Social Credit System that China was implementing to new lengths, showing exactly what it would be like if you were a social pariah or if you were part of the social elite. The society in Terms of Service as a whole is there to “prevent selfist ways” aka keep everyone the same, but at the same time utilizes the social scoring to keep people different. It’s a great part of the book and a really interesting way to show how people say one thing and do another.
I had a feeling that with comparisons to 1984 and Brave New World that I was going to be able to guess the ending, but I was wrong. I wasn’t as frustrated as I was with 1984’s ending but it still caught me off guard. I think that Stanfill did a great job writing characters that were both predictable and unpredictable. Throw in the way that they have to train the AI’s and you have a book that genuinely caught me off guard.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the great narration by Gill Mills. Mills really does a great job showing emotion, especially as things start to change for Kim. I think she did a great job and definitely kept me riveted to the edge of my seat throughout.
This is not a typical SciFi blurb, because this is not a typical SciFi novel.
Start with 1984, add in a healthy dose of Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451, stir in a bit of The Matrix and Blade Runner, and you have Terms of Service. It is a thought-provoking exploration of the profound consequences to our society as the digital world and the all-powerful corporations who rule it play an ever-greater role in our lives and we all wonder, where does it end?
This audiobook presents one chilling possibility, and it is every bit as relevant to our world today as George Orwell’s masterpiece was in the aftermath of World War II.
This is a work of literary science fiction, one which has something important to say.
Stylistically, it is a work of mainstream fiction, focused on the journey of the protagonist and on the world in which she lives. It is surreal in places, heavily laced with satire, mystical realism, and even a bit of absurdism. In terms of subject matter, it lies squarely within the boundaries of the cyberpunk genre: Virtual reality and sentient artificial intelligences are omnipresent, and our characters live much of their lives within a VR system that sometimes seems more real than reality itself. The virtual world and the AIs who live within it act as a mirror, reflecting our own existence. It is also a solid work of hard science fiction: Everything it portrays is technologically feasible, and much of it is already part of our daily lives.
A slow burn with an explosive finish, this is not an audiobook you will want to pause.
Most SciFi novels start out with a bang because the worlds and characters which they portray are already familiar to the listener. Not this one. The start of the audiobook is devoted entirely to world-building and to defining the main character, without which the rest of the story will be impossible to understand. Savor the writing, enjoy the world, and don’t worry: There is plenty of conflict and tension in store.
Intrigued? Start listening, and follow Kim’s amazing journey as she rises from dull complacency to the heights of power and prestige before plunging into the abyss as she struggles with the demons of her past and learns far more than she ever wanted to about what really goes on in the centers of power. You won’t be disappointed!
Terms of Service: Subject to Change Without Notice by Craig W. Stanfill
Narrator: Gill Mills
Length: 9 hrs and 37 mins
Series: Terms of Service #1
Published by Self Published on August 13th 2021
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction
Buy from Audible