Three Days Breathing *****
by Mike Maguire

Oh dystopia! How has our world turned sideways? Maguire leads us into a world whose citizens are divided into orders. What order you are dictates the length of your lifespan. Koram, our hero, is a member of the general order, so he is entitled to thirty six years of life. Other orders like the judicial, councilor, and administrative orders get to live long enough for wrinkles. School in the general order is like sitting around watching interactive documentaries in Darth Vader’s little pod. Until you turn thirteen.

At the age of thirteen, every student in the general order gets access to soft rooms on the school’s eleventh floor. Soft rooms are a place for the kids to practice having sex with one another. They are encouraged to try all sorts of stuff with as many people as possible. Normally I would shy away from a book with such a strong sexual theme, but Maguire tells the story without getting all porno. I would not recommend this read for anyone who hasn’t already had sex ed, but there is a great story here, so adults should not shy away. It turns out that all the practice is because the very best of the general order gets invited to work in the brothels frequented by people from the upper orders. Everyone else gets a job basically playing a sorting video game when they are grown.

Koram breaks the mold with Keerie and they develop a deep loving relationship with one another. Only through this bond does Koram realize that something about his world is terribly wrong. I really liked the theme. I think that people growing up with internet access in this information age are able to become desensitized to just about anything, so a story about developing deep, loving, and meaningful relationships despite access to shallow pleasure holds relevance for people in our world.

Maguire has achieved something with Three Days Breathing that I’ve only experienced with Stephen Kings work. For the first forty percent of the novel I was well outside my comfort zone. Koram is in a monogamous relationship with a brothel worker. I got wierded out by the possibility. Yet the characters, their world, and the promise that Koram could make sense of the whole mess kept me at it.

At chapter thirty, while listening to the audible audiobook that I received for free, driving around high up in the Adirondacks between a paper mill and an aluminum mill, I found myself shouting, “That’s why you always have a safe word!”

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