Reviews of Escape! (1970)
Review by djq (2007-11-19)
This work is primarily for young adults aged 10 to 15, and can frequently be found in middle school libraries. If you are trying to get a youngster interested in science fiction, this book has my top recommendation.
Ben Bova writes a well-paced story about a small boy of 15 or so who wakes up to find himself incarcerated in a new kind of jail, one where there are no bars on the windows, no fence in sight, and the door opens. His jail resembles a college campus. However, security is run by a new super computer that can see and hear everything, and alerts staff whenever someone attempts a break. The staff then goes out to retrieve the would be escapee. Danny wants his freedom; he has a girlfriend on the outside, and he is not interested in the classes being offered or reforming himself, only escape. The novel is about the way the institution and how a member of the staff work on Danny to try to convince him of the necessity of reform and Danny's attempts to resist and go his own way.
The novel inadvertently brings up profound questions regarding Big Brother, a police state, and whether such a thing as a good, rehabiltative process rather than punitive incarceration is even possible. If it is, this novel is the most sympathetic portrayal of what one would like I can imagine. How feasible is it though? These are the interesting questions this book raises. It's also a highly entertaining and suspenseful read. My bright, precocious 10-year-old daughter gives this novella length novel a 10. I first read the book in the 1970s when a computer such as the one depicted here really was science fiction, but it has now become almost a present possibility. Upon just having reread the story, I find the science and plot line still hold up. I enjoy the story very much.