Once upon a time, when I was about fifteen, I was at a family reunion in Northern California. My sister and I were driving with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. We learned that they read books aloud in the car while traveling, and they introduced us to my favorite dystopian novel ever written: The Alliance by Gerald N. Lund. Back then, there weren’t many dystopian stories to begin with, but it still has lasted the test of time and real competition. Let me explain.
We meet Eric Lloyd and his family. They are living as part of a small community in what used to be the United States. They are the survivors of a nuclear holocaust. Soon, those in their community are forcefully taken to a bigger settlement - a utopian society where crime has been eliminated. Everyone does exactly as they should. If they don’t, the computer chip in their brains reacts painfully.
What I like about this book is that it focuses on an adult. No one is relying on children to save the day, which is common in dystopian books today. I get that they’re written for teenagers, and teenagers are often the ones who read them. But I was a teenager when I first read The Alliance. I could fully appreciate then as I do now a story not led by someone underage.
This book was written in 1983, so the technology is dated but still forward thinking. Every person in the community - except for police and government workers - was implanted with a computer chip at the base of their brain. They also wore a mandatory smartwatch (thought that term didn’t really exist yet) that inflicted the punishment. There are other listed forms of technology that may not have aged as well, but they don’t detract from the story.
The heart of this book is that choice is a gift. We have the right to choose good things and to help rather than hurt people, but along with that comes bad people being able to make their choices, too. Those running the government in The Alliance weren’t required to bear the computer chip that inhibited their choices. They could do whatever they wanted while the “normal” people couldn’t. Mr. Lund created a compelling story that sucked me right in from that first car drive.