Blog Tour: The Key to Fear by Kristin Cast

Blog Tour: The Key to Fear by Kristin Cast

‘Elodie obeys The Key. Elodie obeys the rules. Elodie trusts in the system. At least, Elodie used to…

Aiden is a rebel. Aiden doesn’t do what he’s told. Aiden just wants to be free. Aiden is on his last chance…

After a pandemic wiped out most of the human race, The Key took power. The Key dictate the rules. They govern in order to keep people safe. But as Elodie and Aiden begin to discover there is another side to The Key, they realise not everything is as it seems.

Rather than playing protector, The Key are playing God.’

The Key to Fear is a rather frighteningly relevant book that explores what the world (or, in this case, a particular section of the world) could be like in the wake of a global pandemic. After the Cerberus virus has decimated the world’s population, the society built on what remains is now ruled by the Key, who decide everything from work assignments (decided in citizens’ teen years), to what everyone eats, which is no longer proper meals. People are forbidden to touch and are told repeatedly throughout their day, in one way or another, that this is for the sake of their future health, and all are encouraged (expected…) to activate a shield that keeps them separate from others whenever they go outside. The Key to Fear is written from multiple points of view, but, for the sake of this review, I’m going to be sticking with Elodie and what the reader sees of the world through her.

One of its most interesting aspects is an almost complete reliance on technology and virtual reality for communication and leisure activities, which could all too easily become our future, pandemic aside. Elodie and much of the rest of the cast use virtual reality to ‘meet up’ with each other and find it rather strange when they ever get together to do activities in the ‘real’. While VR offers them the opportunity to experience places and activities that they might otherwise never get the chance to, Elodie herself believes it to be a rather empty and lifeless way of seeing the world, knowing full-well that she is physically always in a safe place and can’t be hurt or die in VR. However, this has become the norm, and it would seem that socialising in general has suffered for it, as, though Elodie doesn’t appear to much enjoy the company of others, there’s little evidence to suggest young people have much interaction with one or two people outside their family. While I think it’s evident that people have found virtual meetups for work and other aspects of their lives quite a poor and increasingly frustrating substitute for actual interaction during the pandemic we’re living through, that we were more and more using technology to communicate instead of meeting up and going outside before the pandemic happened has been clear in the rising damage to mental health that things such as social media are causing, and not only to young people. In this respect, were/are we really as distant from Elodie’s reality as we would like to think?

On the subject of family, if Elodie’s is anything like the norm, the Cerberus virus has had a huge impact on familial interaction. It’s stated that children are no longer created in the usual way, for that would involve human contact, and are instead grown in labs and sent home with a ‘carebot’ to look after them for the first four years of their lives. Given that the first four years are crucial to a child’s social and emotional development, that there is a vast distance between Elodie and her overly critical, self-obsessed and outright emotionally abusive mother is not surprising, even taking into consideration that her mother plainly doesn’t know how to treat her with affection or see her as anything other than imperfect. It would seem more that families are now a collection of people who are genetically related living together in the same house, rather than what we would hope for today. People are matched by the Key with someone deemed appropriate for them, and it’s implied that to reject that match is to be socially outcast.

Despite knowing she shouldn’t, Elodie has literature that she hasn’t handed over to the Key, in which she reads about human behaviour that she has never seen or experienced, such as romance and adventure. Though she has a match and keeps trying to convince herself that she is in love with him, she knows that she isn’t, particularly as he seems as judgemental as her mother and blindly faithful to what the Key wishes without questioning a thing (oh, and he takes great pleasure in violence). It’s what she reads in her books that helps her to identify that her feelings for him are not what she wants them to be – even if the romance she reads is somewhat over the top – and that what she experiences with Aiden is much closer to an actual human connection…

The Key to Fear was released on November 5th and is available from booksellers across the country. Current times make it a particularly haunting read, especially as regards the impact of politics, technology and corporations on our lives, and I look forward to reading future instalments. Thank you, Head of Zeus, for sending me a copy and inviting me to be part of the blog tour. Check out the tour schedule below to see the other stops!

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