The Test by Sylvain Neuvel

The Test by Sylvain Neuvel is a frightening look at the future of immigration tests from the man that brought us the amazing Themis Files. Idir is a man hoping for a visa, if he passes his entire family qualifies and as a decent and kind hearted man he feels the odds are in his favour. It’s a battle of wits but he has no idea that the answers his gives will determine who lives and who will be dead.

It reminded me of some of Stephen King's early work, specifically The Running Man where potential contestants where watched and graded and put through a variety of tests with the factor determining success or failure not immediately obvious. As a reader it stressed me out trying to figure out which one it would be. For instance early in his test Idir is specifically told not to talk and to keep to himself which are pretty basic rules when it comes to a written test but he is also compelled to help and man who has spilt a drink on his paper. Does listening to and following the instructions of an authority figure outweigh basic human kindness? Which trait would truly hold more value for a potential citizen and what does that tell us about the society being created? There are so many interesting questions raised considering this is only 100 pages or so.

One element I found extremely interesting was the small window readers are given into the people behind the curtain and although it does answer some of questions it inevitably raises a bunch more. It’s one of those books though and I really enjoyed it both despite and because of the somewhat horrific take it has on the future of immigration. Is this a dystopian future, a fairytale that will never materialise or something that is already in the final stages of development for real world application. We just don't know and that's some scary shit right there.

The Test is published by Tor Books and is available March 1st 2019.


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