“Britain, the not-too-distant future.
Idir is sitting the British Citizenship Test.
He wants his family to belong.
Twenty-five questions to determine their fate. Twenty-five chances to impress.
When the test takes an unexpected and tragic turn, Idir is handed the power of life and death.
How do you value a life when all you have is multiple choice?” (via Goodreads)
Idir is an Iranian immigrant waiting to take an immigration test in London. With his wife and two children in the waiting room, he starts answering the multiple choice questions. But when a white terrorist group takes over the facility, everything goes to hell. Idir is forced to choose who dies every 15 minutes, and each choice gets harder and harder. And here’s where the book takes a major twist that I won’t spoil for you but it’s a hella intense and only gets more severe from there.
One of the things I love most about being a reviewer and book blogger is the chance to read subgenres and authors I wouldn’t normally pick up. It’s so easy to get stuck on a particular genre or set of authors, but getting a free copy of something new – and having to put the content into the framework of a critique – is a handy way of exploring without strings attached, so to speak. Short fiction in particular is a great way to dabble, and is a medium I’m gravitating to more and more.
Before I requested The Test, I hadn’t even heard of Sylvain Neuvel or his Themis Files series; instead, it was the novella’s description that enticed me. And at just over 100 pages, it was an easy sell. Why not try a short book with an author I’m unfamiliar with? Out of all the times I’ve tried this method of randomly picking short fiction to try, I’ve only hit one author I didn’t care for. All the rest – this one included – I’ve found a new author to fall in love with.
This is a very long way of saying The Test is jaw-droppingly good. It may only be February, but it’s already secured a spot in my top 10. I went into it expecting one thing and got something entirely different. Different in a great, shocking, horrifying way. I can’t wait to check out the rest of Neuvel’s works.
The Life in the United Kingdom Test
Question 1: Who is the patron saint of Wales and on which date is his feast day?
I know the answer! It’s Saint David, on March first. I met Tidir, my wife, on March first. It is our meeting anniversary. I remember that day. She came in for a root canal and I fell in love. Not with her—I didn’t know who she was and she didn’t exactly talk a lot with the mouth prop on. I fell in love with her teeth. She had striped canines. Horizontal discolouration of the enamel, right down the middle. Her teeth look like Neapolitan ice cream. Neapolitan cuspids. I knew right away.
Thanks to Tor.com Publishing for sending me a review copy.
Do the world a favor and buy this book from your local indie bookstore or borrow it from your public library.