The Separation by Thomas Duffy

Finn is a confused young man. And for good reason. He lives on a world in the distant future where the sexes have been separated for the first 22 years of their lives, supposedly for the greater good of society. But in fact, this both solves and creates problems.

Sent away to one of the country’s “boy states,” he grows up feeling the world is a little strange; that something is missing, and that perhaps he’s being lied to.

So he finally goes off to college, and begins to learn some hard truths about life — one of them being the awesome realization that human beings are created by, of all things, other human beings.

Thus enlightened, he enters into a relationship that gives him a son and many more puzzles to solve. He then struggles with career, women, and the overarching notion of finding happiness in life.

In Finn’s world, selfishness is a worse crime than murder. And individual pursuits, psyches, and abilities are strictly controlled in the interest of societal well-being. It is indeed a bleak, joyless existence.

Readers of sci-fi who like social justice issues embedded in their stories will enjoy following the thought-provoking revelations experienced by Finn. Because, for some reason, when all else fails, Finn still wants to survive in this incredibly restrictive world.

It’s a remarkable twist on the traditional coming of age story, powerfully presented as it is with a strong dose of social and political insights mixed in for good measure.

Readers will also likely find themselves rethinking — and reassessing — their own social norms, historical decisions, and personal choices as The Separation rolls to its surprising conclusion. It’s the kind of book that makes us grateful for the relatively unrestricted lives we lead.

This is excellent social reflection sci-fi on the order of The Handmaid’s Tale. And even though Finn’s journey is less harrowing in some ways, it is nevertheless quietly evocative, following him as it does through the pitfalls of a medicated, disciplined, controlled life — a life in which people are born to work, sex drive is suppressed, and all human emotion is regulated for the common good.

Five-plus stars to The Separation. Rarely do we see such an ambitious social agenda combined so effectively with compelling narrative, well-drawn characters, and a story that’s just so eminently readable.

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