Title: The Juice
Author: Janet Stilson
Published on: 9th February 2021
Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Jarat Ellington, an exile from the Elite Society, was trying to live a normal life when he learns of an attack on his best friend Thom Tseng. In the world where dreamisodes are common, Jarat is taken to Thom’s dreamisode. Jarat is not new to the secret chemical substance that Thom created while at college – called The Juice. Via Thom’s last dreamisode, Jarat learns the substance is stolen and Thom is going to be killed. Before they could say their goodbyes, Thom is killed and Jarat is taken back to the real world.
Jarat wants to find the person behind his friend’s death. The quest leads him on a roller-coaster ride – from fighting deadly bots to taking the help of a secret organization to coming face-to-face with a charismite.
We are not new to social media addictions and power of media. As a debut novel, Janet has done an excellent job in portraying how social media might affect lives in future. I really liked the concept of dreamisodes where one could ‘program’ one’s dreams.
There are three divisions in the society – Chavs (the lowest), the Middles and the Elites. Elites are best dressed, have the best of everything – house, education, and their skin has a golden glow. Meanwhile, Chavs are raggedly-looking, and work hard to earn at least a meal a day. The Elites even have a ‘made-to-order’ baby scheme – genetically enhanced to be the best in everything.
A teenage Chav named Luscious Melada saves a young boy and a lady who fall into a frozen lake. She soon becomes a star and catches the attention of a wealthy businessman named Rico. Meanwhile, Petra, a Middle, is longing to have a baby. She’s in her mid-forties and time is running out – only a year left (according to the doctors) before she reaches menopause. Rico is her colleague and a good friend. He introduces her to something that might help her in finding the perfect partner – the sperm banks are affected by a virus and Petra doesn’t have a lot of choices left except accepting Rico’s offer.
As things proceed, we see Petra’s life going for a toss – thanks to Rico’s device. At the same time, we also see Luscious turning into a Charismite. Meanwhile, Jarat is up to something – Thom did him one last favor before dying.
The story alternates between three POV(point of view) characters. We have Petra’s, Luscious’ and Jarat’s sides of the story. In the second half of the book, these three characters start influencing each other’s lives and finally join to fight against the bad guys.
This book couldn’t have come at a better time. The Juice has elements of social media abuse (think of The Social Dilemma) and nations in power (think The Man in High Castle). All the three POV characters are well-portrayed. A small niggle when I mention the characters – seeing Luscious age from 16 to 21 in a matter of months was a little shocking. Thanks to growth serum and The Juice, she starts behaving like an adult and a seductress, something I did not expect from this character. We also see a little side story from Jarat – this has to do with a Chav named Jewel.
The story picks up pace in the second half and we do get to see a lot of action and adventure here. The ending was unexpected and shocking. I did not know what to expect because until 90% through, it seemed like things were going to be doomed for good. A dash of romance makes the story charming.
The Juice by Janet Stilson is an engrossing and entertaining science fiction with elements of romance and espionage.
INTERVIEW WITH JANET STILSON
Hello Janet and welcome to my blog, The Book Decoder. Please introduce yourself to me and my readers.
Hi There! I’m so pleased to be featured on your site, Rekha. Thank you for inviting me. I’m a small-town girl who grew up to love big cities, especially New York City, where I live. I am fascinated both by colorful urban street life and the glories of nature. My life is also split between creative writing and journalism. I guess it should come as no surprise that I’m a Gemini.
As a creative writer, I am drawn to sci-fi and fantasy stories, and the ones I write usually are based on some aspect of what we’re experiencing today. I’m not interested in intellectual futuristic exercises, but rather human conditions and emotions.
Please tell us about your debut novel The Juice.
It’s a cyberpunk, dystopian story that has flavorings of romance, suspense and a touch of humor every now and then. At the heart of it is a rebel tech head named Jarat who learns that his best friend, a genius named Thom, was attacked. Thom had invented a secret, incredibly valuable substance that can turn mildly charming people into almost god-like creatures. They become so charismatic that they can get almost anyone to do anything – like fight in a war or elect a certain politician.
When Thom dies and the Juice is stolen, Jarat goes on a quest to find the culprit. It soon becomes clear that the Juice is being used by someone within a giant media company to control the public’s thought patterns. And one of his key “weapons” is a girl named Luscious, once a poor, homely teen who’s transformed by the Juice into a highly magnetic being. Jarat has to fight his extreme attraction to Luscious as he tries to sabotage the media company. Both Jarat and Luscious must deal with a top media executive named Petra, who has a mysterious agenda all her own.
What is the inspiration behind writing The Juice?
As a journalist, I’ve specialized in writing about the media industry. For years, I’ve sat in the offices of executives in big companies like Disney or CBSViacom and discovered what they were excited about – which could be new forms of content or nerdy things like research analysis. And I also talked with a lot of people involved with the advertising business.
Much of what we discussed had to do with the future of showbiz and technology. And so that started seeping into my creative mind. I started wondering, “What would it be like to work in a huge media corporation a few decades into the future?” Another big question was: “How could media companies and their advertisers influence people’s opinions and behaviors in ways that are far beyond what they can do today?”
I dreamed up some answers, and The Juice flamed to life in my mind.
What was the most challenging part of writing The Juice?
I’d written film scripts and short stories in the past, but never a novel. I had to learn the craft of novel writing at the same time I was finding my story and developing my characters. As part of that, I decided to tell the story using first-person narrative. The chapters alternate among three different characters – Jarat, Luscious and Petra. I wanted each one to have a distinctive voice. All of that took time to develop.
What’s next for Janet Stilson?
I’m writing a TV series that is a blend of fantasy and sci-fi. It could easily evolve into a novel. As with The Juice, it’s about uncovering hidden truths that can dramatically transform people’s lives
What does a day in Janet Stilson’s life look like?
I wake up with a cat on my belly and we have a petting session. Then it’s feeding time for the kitties and coffee time for me. After yoga with the cats, and some conversations with my husband David, there’s my creative writing. Around 2, I have lunch and then switch into journalism mode. Exercise and meditation come before dinner and some TV with my honey. Then in the middle of the night, I often wake up and do some of my best reading. It’s quiet, and my daily distractions have melted away – at least on good nights they do.
You can follow the blog tour here. There is a giveaway for this tour. I might not be offering a free copy of the book (US only) but you can hop on to the tour, visit the blogs of fellow tour hosts and enter your deets for the giveaway.
Many thanks to the lovely Rachel Gul of Over The River PR for giving me opportunity to be a part of this blog tour. Special thanks to Janet for the Q&As. 🙂