A Calculated Life - Anne Charnock

Set in a future Manchester where cognitive implantation has become the norm and one company has gone further in terms of providing (and contracting out) individuals like Jayna, who work for both the public and private sector, doing complex mathematical modelling tasks, I found A Calculated Life to be a bit of a mixed bag.


Jayna is working in the private sector and doesn't initially seem to realise the impact that her being brought into the company has on other people. This is understandable, as we discover that people like her lead a very regimented life, complete with approved housing and regular meals, and are basically 'born' as adults, ready for their new job. Even then, Jayna and those like her are seen to be undertaking small acts of rebellion against this routine, while other more substantial acts can lead to a 'recall' - they worry about this, particularly as the line between petty and non-petty is so unclear as to make anything but complete obedience a significant act of defiance.


As word spreads about others being recalled, Jayna begins to worry that she may be heading the same way even as she fosters a relationship with someone from the company she works for who is one of the non-implanted. In the end, her plans are all thwarted by a moment of panic on her part and A Calculated Life ends with the others who had been involved living in relative freedom (though poor and working hard) and an implication that Jayna has been placed somewhere else with a new memory. I'm not sure if this is meant to give a sprinkling of hope over what is otherwise at times quite a bleak existence for her, whether she realises it or not.


Personally, I'd have liked a little more flesh to the bones of Jayna's character - though the story is told from her perspective, I never felt as though I really got to know what made her tick. In fact, all of the characters could have done with being a bit more definite and suffer from being pretty much perfect and good, with the exception of one with whom Jayna has a violent interaction. Life isn't like that, so the folks with whom she is most closely dealing in particular needed to be a little more human.