THE TEN PERCENT THIEF
Title: The Ten Percent Thief
Author: Lavanya Lakshminarayan
Pub Date: 30 March 2023
Nothing has happened. Not yet, anyway. This is how all things begin.
Welcome to Apex City, formerly Bangalore, where everything is decided by the mathematically perfect Bell Curve.
With the right image, values and opinions, you can ascend to the glittering heights of the Twenty Percent – the Virtual elite – and have the world at your feet. Otherwise you risk falling to the precarious Ten Percent, and deportation to the ranks of the Analogs, with no access to electricity, running water or even humanity.
The system has no flaws. Until the elusive “Ten Percent Thief” steals a single jacaranda seed from the Virtual city and plants a revolution in the barren soil of the Analog world.
Previously published in South Asia only as Analog/Virtual, The Ten Percent Thief is a striking debut by a ferocious new talent.
ReviewThe Ten Percent Thief starts with a robbery. Not anything violent, but a seemingly innocuous theft of a Jacanda Tree seed. However this small act of rebellion sets off a series of events that will topple the divisions of Apex city, the highly productive city that used to be Bangalore, but is now governed by the Bell Curve. The Bell Curve is an algorithm that governs the lives of the inhabitants of Apex City dividing it up by percentages. The top 1 percent are the Untouchables, the super mega rich. The twenty percent are the high flyers and CEO's whilst the Seventy percent are the workers. However, no one wants to be a Ten Percent. Those known as Analogs.
You see there is a division amongst the citizens of Apex city.. The visuals are those people who have access to the technology of the Bell Curve, whilst the Analogs are those dependent on their own skills, and are deemed as lazy and unproductive.
The Ten Percent Thief tells the story of a rebellion using a mosaic storyline, which is a series of interconnected stories where characters or objects may crop up in stories that appear to have very little relevance to each other.
It's an interesting method of telling a story as it gives a wider picture of a central conceit by using indidual scenes and stories. However, this can also have its downside as the story may not centre on plot or character and at times can appear unemotive as you don't have a central character or set of characters to become engaged with, and there may not be that impetus of plot dragging the story along.
Now, this can be a difficult form of storytelling to pull off as there does need to be something that hooks you in, whether it be theme or writing, and in fairness, the Ten percent Thief doesn't really tread new ground, particularly the corpratisation of the future. However, as always, if familiar tropes are done well they can be the strength of the story, and Lavanya Lakshminarayan does approach the theme in an engaging way. In addition to that, she presents us with a entertainingly satirical view of the future with recognisable nod to technology that is available today and highlights the technological gap between rich and poor and the disadvantage that this promotes.
Whilst the book isn't perfect, which you can kind of expect with this approach, Lavanya Lakshminarayan presents us with an interesting vision of the future and a plausible commentary on today's advancement in its use of technology. Not only that, it's good to see sci fi based in the Asian subcontinent, giving us a different perspective on familiar themes.