When greedy, unscrupulous politicians with ideological agendas and little compassion for their fellow man start to sneak laws into our system to advance that agenda – we’d better beware. Citizens who pay no attention to what politicians do can easily wake up and find themselves under the yoke of a police state and creeping totalitarianism.
In Get on Board Little Children by Victoria Randall, we’re immersed head first in just such a state. The United States has enacted strict population control measures and left it to the states to implement them. Each state has its own views, and some, like the state of Washington, have adopted draconian procedures, up to and including a Bureau of Population Management. In order to legally have children, people must obtain a permit – an expensive and time consuming process – or risk fines and imprisonment, forced abortion, or if the child is born without permit, having it consigned to a labor camp. In order to enforce this, a police state of sorts has been created, complete with officious bureaucrats and scheming politicians drunk on the power they possess.
Sophie Cortez and her husband Joshua find themselves caught up in this byzantine situation when she becomes pregnant with twins. When Sophie and Joshua make the decision to run, they’re taken under the wings of BirthAid, an organization that runs a 21st century version of the Underground Railroad that takes immense risks to get them to safety.
Randall has created a compelling cast of characters – many that readers will recognize and identify with, or hate. The beleaguered citizen fighting to maintain a sense of dignity and self-worth: Sophie and Joshua; the uncaring bureaucrat concerned with exercising power and maintaining position: the Bureau of Population Management officials; and those who, when they see someone in need, are willing to step up and be counted.
It’s hard to decide if this is science fiction or thriller, so I just settled with calling it a damn fine story that is extremely well-told. It starts slow, with rising tension that comes to a gentle landing that is satisfying.
This is a book that, like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, addresses an important social issue – in this case, individual freedom in the face of efforts at state control – and could like Stowe’s masterpiece become the symbol of this century’s most important struggle.