‘Nothing special ’bout me. I’m in every street in every neighbourhood and every city on earth.’ Anthony Griffin, resident of the Debtbelt is just an ordinary ‘boy next door’, caught up in a dangerous world of the near future, where the dividing line between what is real, and what is virtual is increasingly unclear. Even more lethally, ordinary people like Anthony are at the mercy of gangs like The Betta, who will stop at nothing to control not just the streets, but whole swathes of the global economy as well. When his girlfriend Tais is left in a coma and fighting for her life after a gang hit, Anthony decides that he must flush out her killer and bring him to justice. But to do so, he will have to venture underground, into the perilous underground virtual world of The Drop.
This is a well-crafted and pacey thriller from the Costa-shortlisted author of The Carbon Diaries 2015, with obvious appeal for gamers. I admired Lloyd’s ambition in presenting a nightmare economic vision of the future for younger readers: topical given the current state we’re in. Anthony tries desperately to hold onto his ambition to help good prevail in a world where the super-rich own 60% of the globe’s entire wealth, and mafias prevail.
There are plenty of thought-provoking moments in this novel. However, its intended global scope feels rather constricted by its pages. At times, I found the scenes in the virtual world hard to follow: the blurring between the worlds confusing rather than symbolic. And Anthony’s quest to track down Tais’s killers never quite catches the imagination, perhaps because the depth of their relationship isn’t really explored. I liked the character of Anthony’s sister Stella, and her Asperger’s obsession with crows, but she felt like a bit of a walk-on, largely superfluous to the action.
‘I can’t focus anymore,’ says Anthony, comparing his situation to an eye test where the optician keeps changing the lenses. The experience of reading Quantum Drop was a bit like that too.