Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Reprise Review: Life First by RJ Crayton

Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopian


“Strong-willed Kelsey Reed must escape tonight or tomorrow her government will take her kidney and give it to someone else.

In this future forged by survivors of pandemics that wiped out 80 percent of the world's population, life is valued above all else. The government of ‘Life First’ requires the mentally ill to be sterilized, outlaws abortions and sentences to death those who refuse to donate an organ when told.

Determined not to give up her kidney, Kelsey enlists the help of her boyfriend Luke and a dodgy doctor to escape. The trio must disable the tracking chip in her arm for her to flee undetected. If they fail, Kelsey will be stripped of everything.”


A native of the Midwest, RJ Crayton now lives in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Before starting her family Crayton worked as a journalist, but now spends her time writing fiction and as what she calls a “Ninja Mom.”

For more, visit Crayton’s website.


I’ve had a good run of dystopian novels lately. Life First continues that trend. A dystopia is the opposite of a utopia and typically a dystopian novel will extrapolate a current social or political movement taken to an extreme. Crayton’s extrapolated future struck me as different from most which, at the risk of getting too political, I’ll explain.

Although the future extrapolated in a dystopian novel is typically thought to be a warning against continuing in a particular direction, many are nothing more than slippery slope arguments. The slippery slope argument often seems rational, but is usually a logical fallacy when used as a justification against taking the first step. (If you want to understand why, Google will uncover several good explanations.)

Life First was different for reasons I couldn’t quite pinpoint until I finished the book and took time to reflect. The biggest reason is the slippery slope argument isn’t there. Those who are arguing in real life to take the first steps (at least in the US) of limiting abortion with an eye to eradicating it completely are the same people who would object the loudest to the next steps, forcing someone to donate an “unneeded kidney” for example. Even if other events happened in between (a pandemic that wiped out 80% of the world’s population, in this story) I’m not sure that those who are for the first steps would ever support the next steps. Yet, the logic to justify the first steps (the sanctity of life) seems to apply at least as much to the additional steps. For me, the “warning” wasn’t needed, but did prompt some reflection and gave me new insights on the issue being explored, which is another kind of success.

But none of the subtext matters unless the story is good. This one was. I was drawn into Kelsey’s plight and cared how it ended. It also prompted questions about how I would react if put in the same position and how far I’d be willing to go in defense of my position.

Buy now from:    Amazon US        Amazon UK


Added for Reprise Review: Life First by RJ Crayton was a nominee in the Speculative Fiction category for B&P 2014 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran November 4, 2013

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words

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