Train to Nowhere is YA Dystopian at its finest. The story opens with Garland "venting his frustration" in a performance with his partner, Little Byte. The theme: Outside, anywhere outside! The euphoria is short lived, however, when reality snaps him into post-performance depression. His friends, especially the librarian Dos and Little Byte, try to cheer him up. But rumors that his already claustrophobic world will soon shrink even further fill his mind, for Garland is an Orphan, illegally born and fated to live out his entire life on one of the Orphan trains, never to see the sky, feel the wind on his face, or know true freedom. Sure, he can pull them up on the view screen in his room, but it will always be VR (virtual reality).
Most Orphans are content with their lot, but Garland remembers a time when he wasn't on the train: sunshine through a window, a blue quilt, a companion. Unlike the others, Garland remembers the outside. The games, the diversions, and the "jobs" given orphans to placate them are not enough when freedom is all he desires. Then, he learns that his friend Dos has a plan to escape.
Meanwhile, another musician, this one Landed, looks over his domain in utter triumph. Having clawed over his colleagues through guile and deceit, Hedge stands ready to advance in the ranks of the illustrious Golden Performers Guild. Nothing and no one can stand in his way, especially if he has anything to do about it.
The story is riveting, the three castes (Orphan, Landed and Nomad) are fully developed and intriguing, and Admin is terrifying. Admin cares, or does it? The question haunts Garland throughout his adventures and misadventures. Fundamental beliefs about security vs. freedom are explored. Garland's quest to find where he belongs and who he really is under all the programming keeps you guessing until the very end. Enemies, both internal and external, challenge him at every turn.
I loved this book and have to rate it a solid five stars. If I could rate it higher, I wouldn't hesitate to do so. The quirky lingo of the Orphans, the character names derived from old computer terms, the sinister enemies and the unique caste culture hooked me from the start and kept me entranced until the utterly satisfying end.
I would recommend this book to lovers of ya dystopian books, like Hunger Games or Moon Dwellers, as well as sci fi fans who are looking for something different (no spaceships, but the train is pretty close).
I am grateful to have received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest, non-reciprocal review.
(reviewed 28 days after purchase)