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Publisher's Summary

Claire North shortlisted for the Sunday Times PFD Young Writer of the Year Award.

From one of the most original new voices in modern fiction comes a startling vision of a world where you can get away with anything.... 

Theo Miller knows the value of human life - to the very last penny.  

Working in the Criminal Audit Office, he assesses each crime that crosses his desk and makes sure the correct debt to society is paid in full. 

But when his ex-lover is killed, it's different. This is one death he can't let become merely an entry on a balance sheet.  

Because when the richest in the world are getting away with murder, sometimes the numbers just don't add up.

From the award-winning Claire North comes an electrifying and provocative new novel which will resonate with readers around the world. 

©2018 Claire North (P)2018 Hachette Audio UK

Critic Reviews

"An extraordinary novel that stands with the best of dystopian fiction, from Nineteen Eighty Four to The Chrysalids, with dashes of The Handmaid's Tale." (Cory Doctorow)

"An eerily plausible dystopian masterpiece." (Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven)

"Ambitious, immensely humane and full of philosophical panache." (Sunday Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Cold, sad and beautiful

Anything CN writes is worth a listen. PK as a narrator is always brilliant . Buy it.

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  • Robert
  • 06-05-18

Well read, but difficult dialogue and opaque story

I really liked some of Claire North's audiobooks and I love Peter Kenny's reading style, but not even he could save this book for me.

First of all - the dialogue. I appreciate that in reality people speak across each other, mumble or don't finish sentences. However, to have a lot of this accurate and verbatim cross talk read out like a transcript of a conversation is annoying at first and insufferable after a while. Especially when the exchange is quite long, or the snippets are unconnected and trying to illustrate the passing of a day in the office.

Secondly the tale leapt back and forth between Theo as a young man, as a boy, as a working civil servant and as a man on the run in a canal boat. This is a fine way of jigsawing together a narrative, but the reader has to know which version of Theo is being used. That did not happen.

The point of view sometimes changed without warning between characters. It is fine if an extra might look tired or have a long shift and show it in their interaction with the protagonists. But there is no reason to put the reader inside the extras head.

Finally the world building did not really work. It might have done as a short story making a point about a corporate run Britain of the near future. But for a novel it felt like there were wide gaps in the description of society which did not fit.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Boggy of Bucks
  • 06-05-18

What the F... Claire North's writing is... How?...

This is more of a complaint than a critique I'm afraid but...

Claire? What have you done? Why curtail almost every sentence spoken by every character? Once or twice, perhaps, for realism. But all the effing time? Why? Why? Why? It is so annoying, so grating, so unnecessary, Frankly, I almost gave up on this book in the first 10 minutes and if it had been a different author I probably would have.

Claire North has written some very interesting books. Properly good. This is a departure. This is a case of style overriding what might have been a well imagined and gripping story.

And another thing... A fractured timeline is employed by many authors to good effect. One chapter here, another in the past, etc. This story's timeline is fractured in odd places and it is hard to quite work out where we are in it. Its not a biggie (unlike the unfinished sentences) and if it was the only stylistic error (it is an error - the customer is always right) it would be excusable. The combined effect is simply annoying.

Customer, do not buy this book. Claire, rewrite it. Publisher, don't let her do it again. Ever.

Rant over.

PS Peter Kenny is very good, as usual.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-26-18

Disappointing after her earlier works

This book is full of characters who are unable to finish a sentence and it drove me mad! I love 'Fifteen Lives' and 'Touch' and Peter Kenny is my favourite narrator, but even he couldn't rescue this book from an incredibly irritating writing style. Having listened to the book, rather than reading it, I wonder how it looks on the page. Are all the unfinished sentences followed by a series of dots....?
The corporate dystopia concept is chilling and believable and the narrative makes its way satisfyingly enough to a conclusion, but the characters remain rather insubstantial, only half-glimpsed amongst their unfinished musings.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • K. J. Noyes
  • 06-02-18

Frightening fee-based society, murder and dystopia

Excellent construction of the ultimate capitalistic dystopia, for me though the story petered out.

3.5 stars

Claire North has brought to life some of my favourite science fiction of the past few years, and as such I will always have make room for her new work. Each new work seems to bring to life a unique and fascinating concept.

Her latest is a more typical dystopia, with a whole world gone to hell rather than a unqiue character surviving with their differences in a known world.

This is a world in which everything has a number... a price. The police will come and help you - if you have insurance. The courts will work in your favour - if you have money. If you commit a crime, the cost of this will be worked out and charged to you. Theo's job is to work out how much each is worth.

At the Criminal Audit Office, which reminded me of Winston Smith's work in 1984, there are plenty of numbers, every crime and victim is just one number, one total to be worked out. Until his old friend Dani's name appears on his list.

I adored the world of 84K, it came instantly to life for me and was possibly one of the most terrifying I've seen, as it really is just an extension of a capitalist one with a few tweaks and policies...

What started to lose me part-way through was Theo's 'murder mystery' plot. I was listening to the Audible version and found myself drifting sometimes, and less than driven to hear how it ended, it never reached any sort of crescendo but limped on for quite a while.

The bright points as we saw more glimpses of Theo's world were the high points, and I found myself longing for the end. I do wonder if I would have been more caught up in this had I read it on paper or as an e-book.

The reader, Peter Kenny, does a good job of voicing Theo, as we see his present world as he tries to make sense of Dani's death and do something about it, and back to his past at school, as he and Dani struggle to find their way in the adult world and their paths diverge.

I was disappointed that I couldn't engage with Theo more, that this didn't live up to North's other excellent output for me. Incredible world, and it won't put me off trying again.

With thanks to Nudge Books for providing a sample Audible copy.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mr. S. Wallace-jones
  • 06-19-18

Well I thought it was great!

As usual Peter Kenny's performance is flawless and completely engaging and I was pulled into the world of 84K.

I thought the writing style was brilliant and built the tension and highlighted the poignant moments beautifully. It certainly requires you to let go and let Claire lead the way, which I felt she does with her usual aplomb. The many plot lines that Claire opens I were closed elegantly and without cliché.

I believed in the characters and the situation, whilst disturbing, could almost be imagined and a warning call for us not to let our society slip into such a state.

There were points where I thought the deprivation was going to get to me, but then a deeply human act or subplot would warm my heart. Reminded me of Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • J. Clare
  • 08-06-18

Very Disappointed

Claire North's earlier books are amongst my favourites, which makes my inability to even finish this one all the more frustrating.
As others have mentioned, the curtailing of nearly every thought from a character is more than a little...
Not that this was my only frustration, the narritave is difficult to follow and the characters one dimensional. Sadly, I found myself just not caring what happened.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Claire
  • 08-05-18

Not my cup of tea

Narration too slow and took for ever to get going. Gave up in the end. Shame have liked other Claire North books

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Blind Girl
  • 05-31-18

The Fall of The Claire North Sci-fi Factory

This novel is exceptional in most ways. Claire North never wrote in third person. She never wrote anything distopian. And she did fail.

The story is like a not particularly original episode of ’Sliders’ with high level of embarrassing inprobability. Part One somehow seems to be working but Part Two is dull, childish, super-heroic Hollywood nonsense. And worst of all: the vision is not consequent, technical and socio-psychological details are poorly developed. It will appear as an outdated rubish in 15 years’ time.

Language is ugly. She writes in a strange, catatonic, suspended way.
When her tremendous loquacity is momentaryly put on hold, she adds as a filler: ’Time is…’ and ’Time was…’. Pictures of devastated English countryside are nice, but most of the remaining stuff is valueless chit-chat.

’An eerily plausible dystopian masterpiece’ , says the superbe Emily St. John Mandel on 84K. Now, Claire, you have to learn from Emily the right pacing and how to build a plausible future. Her one paragraph worth Your entire oeuvre. Sorry.

Peter Kenny, as always, narrates like a psychopath. Menace in every innocent sentence. Unnecessaryly dark and dramatic. Peter and Claire, what a hopeless couple you two are!

3 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ms. Ruth Messenger
  • 06-27-18

I can’t stop thinking about this

Dark, sad and frightening... clearly a play on Orwell’s 1984 but brought up to date so you can actually imagining it happening.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-07-18

Neither engaging or dull

While this book contains vivid and momentarily engaging descriptions of every day live events, it failed to fully engage me. The pace felt monotone and after a while the engaging descriptions became almost gratingly annoying. One part of the book felt just like any other. Also the narrator had a habit of seeming emphasising words that just didn’t need it, such as the word “there” at a beginning of a non action sentence.