Q by Christina Dalcher
Updated: May 18
Published : 30th April 2020
Publisher : HQ
Format : Kindle, Paperback, Audio, Hardback
Genre : Dystopian
Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state’s new elite schools.
Her daughters are exactly like her: beautiful, ambitious, and perfect. A good thing, since the recent mandate that’s swept the country is all about perfection.
Now everyone must undergo routine tests for their quotient, Q, and any children who don’t measure up are placed into new government schools. Instead, teachers can focus on the gifted. Elena tells herself it’s not about eugenics, not really, but when one of her daughters scores lower than expected and is taken away, she intentionally fails her own test to go with her. But what Elena discovers is far more terrifying than she ever imagined…
I wonder what we'll do with the people who aren't necessary anymore?
Firstly thank you Izzy at HQ for this fantastic proof copy, I literally devoured it in days.
OK so where to start! This was such an amazing, eye opening gripping read that I found myself completely consumed by the words that were written on the page.
My emotions went from disgust to shock to empathy to then the most felt, speechless.
The story is told from the perspective of Elena Fairchild. Mother to two young girls, wife to Malcolm, the head of the department of education and co inspirer to the famous Q system.
On the outside Elena has everything, money, happy children and a successful marriage. This is not the reality. Elena no longer loves the man she married, the man whose ideas and power hunger have far exceeded what she thought was possible and she is literally counting down the days to when she is to find out that their youngest daughter Freddie has a lower Q point than Elena allowed her husband to perceive.
The story goes back and forth from Now and Then. The further you read the more you get to see how the Q system was invented and how utterly out of control it has become.
Back when Elena was in college she was not the most popular but she was amongst the most clever. Trying to keep herself to herself during the school day she is approached by Malcolm, another quiet by clever kid in her year. The two make a friendship over eliminating in their little circle of two all the kids in the canteen that are too dumb, too mean, too weird. All the kids that have ever made them feel they do not belong.
It is then, heightened by the game and the companionship that Elena says something that she would later regret.
"Wouldn't it be great if all the people we hated could carry their crappy GPAs around with them for life"
This is how the Q system is created. Depending on what score you get from a monthly IQ test determines what ranking you are in life. Higher Q points ( around 8.7, 9+ ) eat the best foods, get served in line first and basically have everything handed to them as they are genetically more clever. This is Silver, The type of human that America wants. The next level is green. You can work your way up to silver from this point on and the perks are nearly as good as silver. If you score below an 8 then you are at yellow. These people are classed as the ones who will never amount to anything, work in fast food chains and never get an opportunity to go to college or be anything other than the bottom of the barrel. They have to line up for food etc after the silver and greens have had their turn and be happy with what is left.
Adults and children have to take the tests once a month to keep their positions. For schools Silver and green go home at the end of everyday to their families, albeit loaded down with lots of homework.
Yellow children are not so lucky. They get collected and taken to a state school out of the area and have to stay there, no contact and only being permitted visits from their parents every quarter. This is not an option that parents can choose from. These are the rules set by the Fitter Families Campaign and the Secretary of education.
Woman are offered to go in for free to the Genetics Institute to have a prenatal test done on their unborn child to determine what there Q points will be when they are born, thus giving parents the opportunity to terminate the pregnancy if the score states that they will score low on the Q tests and therefore not amounting to much.
Elena's first born Anne is a high achiever with her Points well in the 9's just like her parents, Elena always worried about Freddie and even forged the prenatal test to her husband knowing full well that he would insist on an abortion if the scoring was low and this was not a risk she could take.
Freddie suffers from worrying too much, anxiety and nervousness, apart from this she is a normal healthy nine year old girl. Malcolm adores his oldest child, quite blatantly favouring her over Freddie stating that there is something wrong with her.
Knowing full well how hard she tries to keep her head above water at the green school Elena helps Freddie practise on the last weekend of every month for the test that is due the following week. After every test Elena dreads the text that she is to receive that evening telling her what her daughter scored and where her life would balance all on a simple set of numbers.
On her latest test, the first Monday of the month Freddie is highly strung, anxious that she is going to fail and almost refuses to get onto the bus.
Later that evening Elena receives the text she has been dreading. Freddie's score was too low, she will be heading to state school 46 in Kansas where she will stay.
Malcolm is not bothered, he half expected as much and makes it very clear to Elena that she will be going, regardless of what Elena or Anne want.
This is where things change for Elena. Spurred on by her grandmother with tales of her hitler youth and the awful things that they did to the people they thought of as less then, Being a teacher herself Elena fakes her own test and makes it so that she is transferred to the school where Freddie was sent. It's here that along with a couple of other women they discover the horrifying truths to what is happening to the thousands of children that are sent away. Posters and videos show children happy, playing and learning whilst away from there homes, getting the best education they can under the "No child is left behind" system.
This isn't the case, and Elena discovers that in order for the system to get what they want, to get the perfect America and perfect humans then genetically they have to change what they have today to create only the perfect in the future.
With references to what happened in World War Two, sterilisation, euthanasia and awful treatment to those who were considered to be inferior whilst all along making people believe that everything that is happening, that is going to happen is all for the greater good, this story made me equal parts outraged, speechless and I was left thinking about it long after I finished the book.
At the end in the authors notes Christina Dalcher recommends looking up on the internet certain references and organisations that were in the book that are very similar to the horrible things that were done to so many people during Hitlers reign, eerily enough the idea for the Eugenics Association, the brains behind it all came from an America but was dropped as not enough data could warrant its procedures, this did not stop Hitler picking up where they left off and applying the techniques to the disabled, dumb and then moving on to the Jews etc.
Below is a piece of text from chapter fifty-six...
Elena opened the book to the page Lissa marked and start to read. The section header is long and rambling, but its message is simple.
Preliminary Report of the committee of the Eugenic Section of the American Breeders Association to study and to report on the best practical means for cutting off the defective germ-plasm in the human population.
Why I Loved It
This is a story about a mother, doing what ever it takes to rescue her child from a system that wants to weed out the inferior, stop them at a young age from breeding anymore inferior humans into the population and therefore in a couple of generations only the superior will thrive.
I can not recommend this book enough, it will have you on the edge of your seat, gripping each page with a passion that makes you want to read more but also a dread about what the words on those pages will reveal.
This is dystopian at its best and hopefully now will only ever exist on the page and not ever again in reality.
If you're looking for a thought provoking book that will utterly consume you and leave you thinking long after you have finished reading, then this is the one for you and not one you will quickly forget.
Meet the author
Christina Dalcher is a linguist, novelist, and flash fiction writer living in the American South. She has over 100 publishing credits in the UK, US, and Australia. Recognitions include first prize in the Bath Flash Fiction Award (February 2019), second prize in the 2016 Bartleby Snopes Dialogue-Only Contest, and nominations for The Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions.
Her flash fiction appears in The Molotov Cocktail Prize Winners' anthology, Whiskey Paper, Split Lip Magazine, (b)OINK, Five2One Magazine, and several others.
Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency represents Christina's novels, including the international best seller VOX.
Christina lives with her husband and the ghosts of several dogs and cats.
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