Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett is one of the latest additions to the tor.com publishing line, and perhaps one of the most effective and chilling novellas they have published. Thematically, this also falls right in line with the darker side of the People’s Future of the US, which I reviewed a few weeks back and is out soon!
I had no intention of reading this novella when I first saw it listed, but I ended up buying it the night it came out because of the buzz I was seeing around it. I read most of it in one shot. This story would be best served by a content warning – Bennett hypothesizes an American near-future so rife with gun violence, there is a reality television show based around random acts of gun violence.
One perspective character is the Production Manager of this reality TV show – Vigilance, so named because participants are rewarded with their lives for their preparation and vigilance. The other is a young woman, a local bartender who decides to turn off an episode of Vigilance before it ends, and has a decision to make.
Bennett excels at bending science fiction and reality, banking on the fact that the most unbelievable world is the one we already live in. A cynical approach to a near dark future, Vigilance chills the reader with the fact that – if global warming doesn’t get us first – big gun is going to give living a run for its money.
Some would say this story is cynical, others would say that Bennett is describing America’s ultimate truth and core addiction — the cold intersection of guns and capitalism. Haunting, stunning and thought-provoking, Bennett’s narration of a possible near-future is gripping. The final few twists in this story left me near-tears, as I struggled with the likelihood of this reality.
Like the rest of the books in this line, it clocks in under 200 pages, and can be read in an evening. A short story with big ideas, I would definitely recommend this one – it even pairs well with A People’s Future of the United States.
Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett is published by tor.com publishing and out now at your local eBook and physical book vendors.