A Calculated Life takes place in some indeterminate, somewhat dystopian future England. The story follows Jayna, a genetically engineered, manufactured young woman who has been leased out to an investment company. She spends most of her waking hours analyzing ridiculous amounts of seemingly unrelated data (think butterfly wings resulting in typhoons) to find money-making opportunities. The rest of the time she cares for her pet stick insects and engages in stilted conversations with fellow uber-analysts. Boring, right? Right. That’s why the first half of the book is ridiculously boring, and why I almost didn’t finish.
NetGalley to the rescue! Since I obtained my copy of A Calculated Life from that amazing resource, I felt obligated to push through to the end. At about the halfway mark Jayna starts to go a little haywire. Turns out an alteration to her generation to make them more sociable (and fit in better with regular folk) causes somewhat erratic behavior. Well, erratic for a genetically engineered meat computer (which is what she really is). Perfectly normal behavior for the average person. Once a chain reaction of behavior outside the norm begins, the pace picks up, gaining speed at an exponential rate, right up until an abrupt and somewhat predictable end (but that didn’t make it any less exciting). And there are a couple neat little epilogues to confirm a reader’s suspicions as to how things turn out.
I’m somewhat torn as to whether to tell you to take or leave this one. Having finished the book, I don’t necessarily wish I had that time back, and I understand the reasons behind the mind-numbingly boring first half of the book. I do not, however, think I would recommend this one to any of my friends, so I’m going to say