The novel is set in a near-future which is scarily recognisable. The world is populated by reality TV, YouTube stars, porn sites, sensationalist media, plastic surgery and more. An asteroid called Angela is hurtling towards Earth to destroy the planet. The final few years, months and days on Earth are told from the perspective of the Prefin family, specifically their artifically-grown daughter Deek.
Deek is a fantastic character: observant, matter-of-fact and ultimately too good for her adoptive family/owners. She is fully intelligent from the point of creation, which makes for a particularly fun scene where she is tactically competing with fellow artificial babies to appear the cutest and be taken home.
Sadly, Deek suffers horrific abuse in the novel - notably from her jealous, drug-smoking older brother Cal - but she never loses her sardonic grim view of the world, which provides much of the humour. She never loses her fighting spirit either.
The supporting cast are equally well-drawn. Rogers provides big personalities in subtle shades of grey. There are no heroes or villains. At times, we feel sorry for Deek's mother, father and even her brother, whereas we can just as easily loathe them one page later. A particularly memorable character is Deek's gran, an ageing YouTube star never without a camera, like an octogenarian Zoella.
Rogers keeps the novel moving at a fast pace, with short scenes often cutting back and forward in time. These are punctuated with world-building scenes, usually in the form of news reports, to ensure we don't lose sight of the approaching mayhem and Armageddon.
Ultimately, this is a coming-of-age drama, ironically told by an artificial child who will never come-of-age. She is expected to die at the age of eight according to her birth certificate (although her physical appearance is much older thanks to growth milkshakes). Grind Spark is therefore Adrian Mole for Black Mirror fans.
And the language is brilliant. Rogers packs every page with brutal and inventive wordsmithery, delivering short, punchy descriptions without straying into over-written prose.
Grind Spark established Rogers as an exciting new self-publishing talent, an alumna of the Flash Dogs community, with stacks of talent and bold ideas. The ballerina artwork deserves five stars and you should certainly judge this book by its cover.
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