A review of J. A. Christy's SmartYellow™

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J. A. Christy's SmartYellowTM was published by Elsewhen Press as a digital edition in August 2015. The print edition was published in November 2015.

Information about J. A. Christy:

J. A. Christy's writing career began in infant school at the age of seven when she won best poetry prize with her poem ‘Winter’. Since then she has been writing short stories and has had several published in magazines and anthologies.

She holds a PhD in which she explores the stories we use in everyday life to construct our identities. Working in high hazard safety, she is a Chartered Psychologist and Scientist and writes to apply her knowledge to cross the boundaries between science and art, in particular in the crime, speculative and science-fiction genres.

She lives in Oldham with her partner and their dog.

Click here to visit her blog.

Information about SmartYellow™:

SmartYellow™ is the story of a young girl, Katrina Williams, who finds herself on the wrong side of social services. After becoming pregnant with only a slight notion of the father's identity, she is disowned by her parents and goes to live on a social housing estate. Before long she is being bullied by a gang involved in criminal activity and anti-social behaviour. Seeking help from the authorities she is persuaded to return to the estate to work as part of Operation Schrödinger, alongside a surveillance specialist. But she soon realises that Operation Schrödinger is not what it seems.

Exploring themes of social inequity and scientific responsibility, J.A. Christy's first speculative fiction novel leads her heroine Katrina to understand how probability, hope and empathy play a huge part in the flow of life and are absent in the stagnation of mere survival. As readers we also start to question how we would know if the power of the State to support and care for the weak had become corrupted into the oppression of all those who do not fit society's norms.

SmartYellow™ offers a worryingly plausible and chilling glimpse into an alternate Britain. For the sake of order and for the benefit of more fortunate members of society, those seen as socially undesirable are marked with SmartYellow™, making it easier for them to be controlled and maintained in a state of fruitless inactivity. Writer, J.A. Christy, turns an understanding and honest eye not only onto the weak, who have failed to cope with life, but also onto those who ruthlessly exploit them for their own ends. At times tense and threatening, at times tender and insightful, SmartYellow™ is a rewarding and thought-provoking read.


J. A. Christy's SmartYellow™ was a pleasant surprise for me, because it's a stunning and thought-provoking story about a single mother and her problems. It's one of the best novels of its kind, because it blends dystopian fiction and mystery elements with various problems associated with single parenthood.

What separates SmartYellow™ from other similar kind of novels is the author's ability to draw her readers into the protagonist's life. The story is fascinatingly engaging and realistic, because the protagonist is a person with feelings and problems of her own. She's not a bland cookie-cutter character, but an interesting and fully fleshed character who has experienced hardships.

SmartYellow™ is a novel that requires a bit of knowledge about what's going on in the world, because it contains quite a lot of references to certain things that happen to people who are not blessed with good and steady income. The author writes fluently about the hardships of people who have little money and no-one to provide for them. She tells of what it feels like when hope is scarce and survival is difficult.

Here's a bit of information about the story:

- In the beginning, Katrina Williams has her flat and money robbed by a gang that targets those who get social benefits. She seeks help from the authorities and is persuased to return to the housing estate to live with a surveillance officer, Rob. She will work for Operation Schrödinger.

- Soon Katrina notices that Operation Schrödinger is not what it seems to be. At first she thinks it's a shoplifting operation, but then she begins to realise what it really is and what it means to those who live in the estate...

This is the beginning of a fascinatingly told and terrifyingly realistic story about social control. It depicts an interesting vision of a near future world where people are controlled by means of new technology called SmartYellow.

The characterisation is good and realistic. The main characters develop and relate to each other in a believable way, and the minor characters are credible. The author makes her readers care about the main characters by writing believably about them and their lives.

Katrina Williams is a an interesting character, because she finds herself on the wrong side of social services. She's a young woman who has a baby, Amy. When she became pregnant, she was kicked out of her home and had to learn to take care of herself and her baby. Her whole life changed because of the pregnancy, because she had to give up her studies at the university and move to a housing estate. Although life is hard, Katrina loves her baby and doesn't want to lose her.

Rob is also an interesting character. He's a surveillance officer in the Hill Farm estates. He's a bit scared, because he's involved with Sean Coltrane who's the intelligent and suspicious gangster of the estate. He also has to deal with Katrina who lives and works with him. He has a lot to think about because of his work and Katarina. He has a tragic past and has suffered a great loss.

The author gives credible voices to Katrina and Rob and lets her readers see how they feel about different things and each other. Both of them have personal voices of their own. Their voices are surprisingly intimate, because the author hides nothing from her readers, but shows what happens and what has happened to them.

SmartYellow™ gives readers a realistic and uncompromising glimpse into the life of a single mother whose whole life has been turned upside down because of her pregnancy. The author writes touchingly about Katrina's problems and how she tries to survive with benefits that are barely enough to support her and her baby.

The author addresses several problems that are known to many of us. This is one of the reasons why this novel works so well, because everyone has heard of what life can be like for single parents and how difficult it is to bring up a baby alone. It's nice that the author writes unflinchingly about Katrina's harsh life and what happened to her when her parents found out about her pregnancy, because these kinds of things happen in real life and there's no need to sugarcoat the happenings. I think that many can relate to her problems, because there are people who have similar kinds of problems.

One of the best things about this novel is that the author pays attention to those who exploit poor people and steal their money, because this is seldom addressed in speculative fiction novels. It was interesting to read how the gang worked and how its members ruthlessly exploited those who were beneath them.

The author explores social inequity and scientific responsibility in an intriguing way. When you read this novel, you'll begin to question many things and your mind fills up with these questions: Is it acceptable to monitor people? Why do people have to be marked? Are socially undesireable a severe threat to the society? Can people change their lives and escape their poor conditions when they get help? Can greater good be achieved by controlling people?

Some of these questions are answered in the story, but the author lets her readers decide certain things for themselves. This is good, because it's rewarding to read an intelligent and thought-provoking story that raises questions about our current way of life and how we treat those whose lives are different and who don't fit into the society's definition of being an acceptable citizen.

I enjoyed reading about the SmartYellow technology, because it was used to mark people and monitor their movements. SmartYellow is an invisible water based solution that contains codes. The longer it stays on you, the harder it is to get rid of it and you'll be marked by it for a long time, because it gets into your system. When you are marked by SmartYellow, you can easily be monitored and controlled.

The letters that Katrina found and read were an intriguing addition to the story, because they were connected to sociology. They added depth and fascination to the story, because Katrina was interested in them.

In my opinion, there's a faint touch of Margaret Atwood in this novel. The author has a slightly similar kind of way of writing about certain things as Atwood does, but she approaches them in a slightly different way. When I read this novel, I got the feeling that the author enjoys reading Margaret Atwood and has read her novels.

I seldom give this kind of novels five stars, but in this case I'm compelled to do so, because there's something in this novel that intrigued me a lot. One of the reasons why I like this novel so much is that the author writes excellently and realistically about Katrina and her problems. I look forward to reading more speculative fiction from J. A. Christy, because she's a talented new voice in the field of modern speculative fiction.

I can recommend SmartYellow™ to readers who are interested in dystopian fiction and social problems, because it's a well written novel about social control. The story flows effortlessly from start to finish and the author manages to keep the story interesting by gradually revealing what's going on.

J. A. Christy's SmartYellow™ is a chillingly realistic, plausible and terrifying vision of alternate England where the socially undesireable are marked with SmartYellow. It's an intelligent and thought-provoking novel to those who want to read something different and rewarding. If you enjoy reading intelligent speculative fiction with a focus on sociology and social problems, you'll enjoy this novel.

Interesting and well written speculative fiction!