The Controlled is an urban science fiction about a group of disparate characters, trapped in a school by a gang of deranged students. It is set in a post-Brexit nation, where cruelty trumps competence, and inequality is intensifying.
A selection of Subs (the school’s worst students) undergo an experiment designed to teach them restraint. But, when something goes wrong, their minds are trapped in bodies they cannot control – passengers in the unravelling nightmare.
As the Subs’ violent rampage threatens to expose the school’s dubious practice, someone must risk everything to save them all. However, in a society that reveres malice, justice rarely prevails.
Told from the perspective of each of the varied characters, a gradual reveal of consequences builds to a claustrophobic finale, challenging our original impression of who anyone really is.
The Controlled focuses on the events of a single day in the not-too-distant future, that will give rise to the spread of an epidemic in the dumbest of dystopias.
Willett comes in the tradition of JG Ballard: nightmarish, a bleak warning, yet filled with humanity. One of the best, most assured debut novels I’ve read in some time.
Detail by terrifying detail, The Controlled slowly reveals a violent, dark, and gritty near-future dystopia. Focused up close-and-personal on a group of students and educators, these very real, very flawed people’s stories, vibrantly rendered and true to life, are a horror show of systemic injustice and class exploitation. Strong emotional responses pull the reader in, to root for many characters and despise others. A thoroughly engaging book.
--Kathy L. Brown, author of The Big Cinch
Fast paced and disturbing in the kind of way that makes you want to flip to the next page as quickly as possible, P.J. Willett’s The Controlled tells the story of what happens when a system of authority under the guise of education attempts to take over not just the minds, but the bodies of students deemed out of control, who are known as SUBS. The result is a gripping tale of brutal consequences to the deserved and undeserved alike. Bookended by a clever and original beginning and ending chapter, this is a great book for fans of dystopian stories that revolve around Orwellian appetites for power.
--Jonathan R. Rose, author of Carrion, The Spirit of Laughter and Gato Y Lobo.