~bn Book Review • Troubleshooting: Glitch in the System: Book One by Selene dePackh
The former United States is now a collection of ideologically fragmented territories. You can see the probabilities-in-consequence of secessionist thinking, runaway corporate influence, and a broken economic model. All of these are brought into focus through the interplay of various factions in a region that, for the purposes of the initial offering, is set in Wyandot County, once known as Ohio, now part of the re-formed borders in a loose confederation of “Heartlands” territory –with a mix of characters drawn from local citizenry, indigenous, and trade delegations from across the Canadian border. All of this is given depth and substance through the introduction of a singularly unique central character. In her first novel, “Troubleshooting: Glitch in the System: Book One”, author Selene dePackh kicks off what will be hopefully a long and continuing saga in an uncompromising look into this not-too-improbable alternate future.
“Glitch in the System” is experienced through the eyes of Scope Archer, an autistic teen who has grown up in a system that has categorized her and her kind as both a burden and a form of chattel. The disabled have no voice in this setting, and with that loss of voice comes the loss of rights and human dignity. In the introductory novel, these premises of disability, deregulation, and corporate control are all laid out –and there is a lot of exposition to be covered here– part of what makes “Glitch” so unique, is the ability of the author, who is autistic herself, to make that perspective of this world so readily accessible and believable to the reader.
There is so much to be introduced here, and it is no easy task for a writer to provide so much depth in laying the credible groundwork of a disintegrating culture, explaining the voice, and then letting it speak though her characters with agency and strength. Selene dePackh does this with aplomb. The novel does a masterful job in establishing both premise and perspective, without sacrificing plot or believable interactions.
There is no stereotyping here. Few punches are pulled in the descriptions, there is nothing here that is glamorized or played for pity. Areas of disability, gender, sexuality, heritage, as well as the dogma that shape circumstances that imperil the treatment and fate all of those who are marked as diverging from the norm, are painted with an even hand. The references in this novel to places like the Judge Rotenberg Center and the techniques used there that are described in graphic detail are not hyperbole. They exist now, in our present. The logical extension of this in a thoroughly deregulated society is chilling. Many of the foundations of dystopia seen in this work are indeed, differences not of kind, but of degree from our current cultural climate.
The author makes all the necessary introductions here, while maintaining a crisp level of movement through the plot and engaging, fully dimensioned characters, leaving you wanting to read more.This is a story of resilience and resistance, it lays the groundwork, and all the necessary exposition, to make a solid foundation for more novels in the series. Hopefully we will see the characters and world Selene dePackh has woven for us unfold in many future offerings. This is not only entertaining speculative fiction, this is important fiction. BlogNostics highly recommends this read.
Selene dePackh is a multiply-disabled graphic designer, diagnosed as autistic late in life. She’s recently turned to writing to help navigate an increasingly treacherous social undertow bending toward eugenics. Kirkus says of her first novel and its narrator: “…a character of immense depth and originality. There are few protagonists in sci-fi—or literature in general—that present an autistic perspective with such specificity and pathos. The explorations of ableism and sexuality in a claustrophobic cyberpunk setting make this unlike anything most readers will have encountered before.”
She says of her writing, “It’s ironic that I’ve spent most of my life working in images. Words aren’t considered the tools of autistics; we are assumed to “think in pictures.” I bring a lifetime of crafting visual design to the challenge of creating narrative, and I do so driven by the urgency of my own waning days and the existential threats to the world I’ll be leaving.”