Cell 7

Cell 7 was written by Kerry Drewery and first published in 2016. It is a dystopian thriller set in the not too distant future, where the court system has been abolished at all crimes are judged by the general public in the form of a reality TV show. The novel forms the first part of the Cell 7 Trilogy and is followed by Day 7 (2017) and Final 7 (2018).

Almost everyone agreed that the court system didn’t work. How else could you explain why so many high-profile killers seemed to get off scot-free? Everyone could see that the new system was an improvement. Each convict was placed into the Cells, moving each day until they were placed in Cell 7 – the execution chamber. Over this time, their story was broadcasted to the public on Death is Justice – a reality TV show that allowed them to vote on whether they thought that the accused was innocent or guilty. It’s clear that the new system works much better than the old. In over two thousand cases, only fifty have ever been found innocent.

When Jackson Paige is murdered, the whole country is shocked. Jackson is one of the most beloved celebrities, known for his charity work and the fact that he even adopted his son from the High Rises, England’s poorest area. His killer – Martha Honeydew – was born in the Rises and was found holding the gun, declaring her guilt. There is no need to review any evidence. As Martha is placed in Cell 1 the polls start out at 97% guilty and there’s no reason why they would ever shift.

However, Eve Stanton has her doubts. As Martha’s councillor, she is the only person who is allowed to speak with the accused and she has reason to believe that Martha is lying to protect someone. As Eve investigates Martha’s past, she learns that there is more to the case than meets the eye. Jackson Paige is not who he seemed and has some surprising ties to Martha. The only trouble is proving it. How can Eve save Martha from the wrath of the public, when Martha insists that she is guilty?

Based on the blurb, I felt certain that Cell 7 would be right up my alley. I love dystopian stories and this one seemed to be a lot closer to reality than most. I mean, we all know that people in large numbers are bloodthirsty and reality TV shows can be brutal as all Hell. It doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to combine the two to allow the public to become judge, jury and executioner, right?

While Cell 7 was based around some interesting concepts, it unfortunately wasn’t very well executed at all. The biggest issue that I had with the novel was its complete lack of world-building. Drewery’s writing is not descriptive at all and so we don’t get any feeling for the state of the world beyond the Cells. We never see anything of the affluent areas where the majority of the cast live and all we really know of the Rises is that they are poor. We don’t even get any descriptions of the characters. All that I can tell you about Martha is that she has had her head shaved and has freckles. This immediately created a barrier between me and the character. While I don’t like it when authors spell out every tiny detail to the reader, this novel told me absolutely nothing about the characters. No quirks or unique styles. Only names.

The novel also lacks any kind of subtly. Even though this novel is built on a subject that is a massive shade of grey, it presents everything as being black and white. Even in scenes where the usually silent majority are given voice, like the televised debate on Day 5, degenerate into loud slagging matches as those who disagree with the status quo are quickly redressed. It is difficult for me to believe that there would be so little kick-back against the system. There have been massive riots in London that were sparked by far smaller inequalities than this.

What has happened to make the public so apathetic against such a visibly corrupt system? Unfortunately, due to the lack of world-building, I cannot say. The public are obviously aware that votes can be bought as the rates are shown on TV, therefore its obvious how open to abuse the system is. The Death is Justice show is also sickeningly upbeat, with cartoons that show people being electrocuted and chirpy presenters who make light of the whole process. I mean, one of them even comments live on air about how people deserve to see the executions that they pay for. I mean, seriously? I find it hard to believe that everyone is so power-drunk that they will not speak out against this.

The way in which Cell 7 is written also unfortunately took me out of the story. The novel is divided into short chapters that are presented to the reader in a number of different ways. Martha’s chapters are always in first-person narrative, Eve and Isaac’s are in third-person and the scenes in the studio are all in script format. I’m not sure why the author decided to structure her novel in this way, but I personally found it to be jarring. The Death is Justice chapters are the worst of these as they contain things like stage directions and italicised text to denote bursts of audience laughter. For me, this totally stripped away any kind of emotional impact these sections could otherwise have had.

The only point that the story really did hook my interest was towards the climax. As Martha was led to Cell 7 for the final day of voting, the pace of the novel dramatically picked up. While I found the twists to be a bit predictable (I did manage to guess the characters’ connections to Jackson Paige and the identity of the killer), Martha’s final few hours were incredibly tense and left me curious to see how things would wrap up. While the novel did conclude this stage of the story, it still broke off on a rather dramatic cliffhanger which left it very clear that Day 7 will pick up precisely where this story left off.

In terms of characterisation, Cell 7 again felt quite shallow. Due to the way that the novel was written, I didn’t feel like I got to truly know a lot of the characters. While we do get into Martha and (to a lesser extent) Eve’s head a little, most of what we learn of the supporting cast is told through exposition. Kristina’s animosity towards Joshua, for example, is only exposited through the dialogue of another character. Similarly, we don’t see all that much of Martha and Isaac’s relationship. We are told that they have been seeing each other for about a year but we see very little of this beyond their initial meeting.

Martha’s grand plan also felt incredibly weak. I’m not going to go into this too much here to avoid spoilers but I will just say that I’m not sure how she ever thought that it was going to work. All I can think of to explain it was that it was spur of the moment and that she is a teenager. Really, the plan could easily have been put into in motion while she was alive and free. I’m not sure how her sacrifice really adds anything further to it.

Anyhow, I think that’s all I have to say. Cell 7 had some nice ideas but the execution of them wasn’t great. The novel totally failed to draw me in due to its lack of world-building, odd structure and shallow characters. I will take a look at its sequel at some point to see if things improve, but I’m certainly in no hurry to do so.

Cell 7 can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Day 7 | Arkham Reviews

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