Toronto author Lisa de Nikotis writes some very good and very imaginative novels. Her latest, The Rage Room is a dystopian novel set in 2055 in a world that is controlled by a woman named Minnie. Capitalism reigns. Consumerism is rampant, for everything including the weather is controlled, so people have little to do but work and shop. The natural world has been all but eradicated and replaced by imitation pants and trees. There are apps to make your physical appearance more pleasing. Almost everything is fake. Minnie has endorsed the use of “Rage Rooms” where people can blow off steam in a safe, controlled environment. Our protagonist, Sharps Barkley is a true Mr. Angry and a regular in the rooms.
Mother looked at me and shook her head. “….you’re the perfect anger machine. I don’t know why, Sharps, but your fundamental, instinctive, feral rage is a rare thing. There are some things that even science can’t explain.”
The pinprick of her words deflated me. Yes. That was me: Mr. Angry. From the cradle to the grave.
Other than his unaccounted for rage, Sharps has everything going for him: a high-paying and secure position at Integratron, married to the boss’ daughter Celeste (who, among other things, is a recovering alcoholic, and spends more time off the wagon than on), Baxter, his young son, and his work partner Jazza Frings who comes up with great marketing ideas for the team. Yet, Sharps is not happy. Coming off paternal leave and having to go back to the working world has him depressed and anxious. The day before he returns, he meets with Jazza and learns some disturbing news that makes Sharps all the more distressed about work.
His whole world is about to go pear-shaped.
At this point in the novel, Sharps is introduced to an underground matriarchal movement wanting to overthrow Minnie and bring nature back. And it involves time travel, which they have been experimenting with. This presents Sharps with the possibility of travelling back in time to right a lot of wrongs he has just committed in real-time. Instead of setting things right, though, he commits more blunders and he gets a glimpse of a world with all control removed. It’s not pretty.
The Rage Room contains passing references to the destruction of the environment, colonialism, class distinction, consumer capitalism and other ills of society that we face today. It also contains Ms. de Nikolits’ trademark humour with lines such as:
- Dragging myself out of bed was harder than dragging a horse’s head across a row of parked cars, the nightmare from which I had awakened.
- “The inside of your brain looked like a snow globe on acid and speed.”
- Consumerism was still our god. all we did was shop, eat, and sleep – the new Holy Trinity.
- “I feel like we’re all so confused here. Like a bunch of deja vu moments are cross-pollinating and making crazy patterns in my mind.”
I believe that The Rage Room is Lisa de Nikolits’ best novel yet. She has managed to maintain a stable locus of control over the entire story and the result is a very satisfying read. I would like to state that the editing is extremely solid, which serves to make The Rage Room the type of book that is tough to put down. Personally, I find any book (or movie) with a time travel theme boggles my mind and Sharps interferes with so many timelines that it’s difficult to keep following the consequences of his actions (or inaction, in one case). Nevertheless, The Rage Room has much to say about the present world, the near future and the de-evolution of humankind.
About the author: Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits is an award-winning author whose work has appeared on recommended reading lists for both Open Book Toronto and the 49th Shelf, as well as being chosen as a Chatelaine Editor’s Pick and a Canadian Living Magazine Must Read. She has published nine novels that most recently include: No Fury Like That (published in Italian under the title Una furia dell’altro mondo); Rotten Peaches and The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution. Lisa lives and writes in Toronto.
- Publisher : Inanna Poetry & Fiction Series (Oct. 30 2020)
- Language: : English
- Paperback : 312 pages
- ISBN-10 : 177133777X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1771337779
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