3.5 star

Review: The Controlled by P. J. Willett

The Controlled is an urban science fiction about a group of disparate characters, trapped in a school by a gang of
deranged students. It is set in a post-Brexit nation, where cruelty trumps competence, and inequality is intensifying.

A selection of Subs (the school’s worst students) undergo an experiment designed to teach them restraint. But, when
something goes wrong, their minds are trapped in bodies they cannot control – passengers in the unravelling nightmare.

As the Subs’ violent rampage threatens to expose the school’s dubious practice, someone must risk everything to save them all. However, in a society that reveres malice, justice rarely prevails.

Told from the perspective of each of the varied characters, a gradual reveal of consequences builds to a claustrophobic
finale, challenging our original impression of who anyone really is.

The Controlled focuses on the events of a single day in the not-too-distant future, that will give rise to the spread of an
epidemic in the dumbest of dystopias.

Note: Thanks to the author for providing a copy of his book for review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.

In the most dystopias of dystopias is where The Controlled takes place. The setting takes place where humanity is barely humanity, and it is really more of a war of attrition on literal human resources and what happens when one day an experiment goes wrong at one of the facilities. Told over the course of everyone’s POV who is involved, this was a fast-paced, thrilling book, which challenges a lot about how we perceive our world.

The characters were all terribly unloveable. But I would say that in a good way, since this is a dystopian book, so kudos to the author for that. I hated them each deeply and I certainly wasn’t rooting for anyone in this crazy situation that breaks out. Each character has their own unique flaws and it is ugly as they all come out to play (or rather, fight). Building each of the characters through the perspective of all the other characters was actually something that was well done.

The plot wasn’t very long, but it was complex and dense. The events of the book really take place over a fairly short time, but there is a slight overlap in timing for all the POVs. In a way, this book is told in a staggered manner where slowly more and more information is revealed until its climactic finale. There is an anecdote both told at the beginning and the end, in a slightly different manner that really highlighted the horror of it all, and the way the perspective really changes after reading the book. Overall it was a good plot in its complexity and the way the author was able to tell the story and keep it coherent over the different view points.

However, all this being said, I really couldn’t handle the gore and horror. Everything was extremely explicit, and there really wasn’t a reprieve at all during this book. The beginning and the end also solidify this as a big theme, and I think I just wasn’t ready nor expecting such explicit detail. There is also a lot of vile language which made me uncomfortable too. A lot of exclamation marks and all-caps talking was present in this book, and I mean a lot. I think it was meant to be a part of the uncomfortable atmosphere it represented, but overall the book was just too “loud” for me. I don’t think this is anything against the author or the story, but I personally couldn’t really enjoy it that much for all these reasons.

Overall Recommendations

The Controlled revolves around a hierarchy of society not unlike that of 1984, except with a more futuristic approach. However, the horrors of humanity and society are still present, and the book provides strong social commentary on this all. Full of thrills, and an unending grind of discomfort, this is an exciting and fast-paced read if you are into the explicit, claustrophobic horrors that lie within. It is cold comfort that we are not quite there yet. If you enjoy this kind of sci-fi dystopian novel, this may be the one for you! Although fair warning, it is not for the faint of heart.


4 thoughts on “Review: The Controlled by P. J. Willett”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s