The year is 2014, and Dylan is a typical teenager facing the troubled world of the near future, a slightly Blade Runner-esque vision of genetically modified foods, holographic advertising and wearable computers that tell you when others are lying. The crisis of Dylan’s story begins with a perfectly normal event to a young teenager’s life: he is dumped by his girlfriend, but things start to stray from Earth normal from there.
Dylan has the usual struggles of adolescence: he has yet to find himself. He knows he is different from the other kids. He has a fascination with insects, opera and old Japanese sci-fi movies. He can play the didgeridoo and is obsessed with the Loch Ness Monster. But as he struggles to find himself, alongside an intriguing new girlfriend named Robyn who refuses to conform, his stressed-out parents make his struggle unexpectedly hard. He is having strange dreams, and memories of a trip to Scotland that he should not have. Why is there a picture of him in his mother’s bedroom that looks as though it has been Photoshopped to appears as though it was taken in the 1990s. What are his parents hiding from him?
Deconstructing Dylan is a new novel by Lesley Choyce, published by the Dundurn Group. I received a copy because my publicist Dan Wagstaff was impressed by my detailed review of Diana Wynne Jones’ novel Hexwood. So, you can tell that I have something of a conflict of interest here. There is no way I would diss my own publisher or a fellow colleague. However, I am not a good liar, and if I were to read something that I didn’t enjoy, I would likely not say anything about it on this blog. Fortunately, that’s not a problem here. Deconstructing Dylan is no chore to read. It is an interesting story, told with a good narrative voice, that challenges the reader with interesting questions.
Dylan is an interesting character, and the story is told with him as the first-person narrator. His rye take on life around him should resonate with any individual who went through High School as a bit of a geek. He is surrounded with people who are out of place in their lives, challenged to conform, and struggling to find themselves. The mystery that fuels this story rolls along, and, once revealed, raising complicated questions about the nature of identity that I can’t discuss without spoiling the surprise. There are almost two novels here: Dylan’s search to discovers what his parents are hiding, and what Dylan does with the truth. If you think your own struggle to establish your identity as a teenager was a struggle, just think what it will be like given all of the marvels and terrors the future is supposed to bring.
I almost take issue with Lesley Choyce’s decision to set the story so close to the present day. His vision of the future in 2014 seems rather more advanced than seems likely, almost like the ludicrously futuristic Strange Days that had a 1999 setting that was impossible to achieve in the four years after the movie’s release. However, Lesley is not interested in showing us a futuristic distopia to be feared and avoided by any means necessary. Other than the holographic ceilings, cars referred to as “skids” and everyday wearable computers, the setting is just off present-day normal. This is Lesley’s intension, I think: rather than scare us with a future we cannot comprehend, he is simply warning us that we may be asking tough questions about ourselves and the nature of our identity far earlier than we think.
Deconstructing Dylan is a good read for young adults, who will sympathize with Dylan’s struggle and be challenged by the story’s ideas. It is a nice, futuristic twist on the old coming-of-age novel.