The Unexpected Inlander
The Unexpected Inlander was published on June 6th, 2016. While I was provided with a copy of the e-book, all thoughts are my own.
Agent Christopher Rockford has been the best assassin in the agency for eight years, and he loves his job. He loves his solitary lifestyle. He loves eliminating criminals. He loves his comfortable life as a member of society’s wealthy coastal upper class.
But in pursuit of a target, he meets Jenna, a mysterious civilian who belongs to society’s lowest and most shunned group. Being around her is fun and intriguing, but it forces him to see things through her eyes—causing him to reconsider the world around them and The Order he so obediently serves. As he falls in love with her, he fears telling her the truth about his profession may cause him to lose her.
But Jenna has her own secrets to keep.
Love is no stranger to sacrifice. Romance is not fleeting, but it takes more work in the long-term to uphold than it does in the short-term. Meanwhile, of course, a barrage of exterior pressures threaten to eliminate both, and destroy the comforts and understanding the participants’ grow to cherish. In The Unexpected Inlander by Kellyn Thompson, the complexities of love and romance are subtly heightened when put in the vicinity of a highly trained government assassin (and all the relating overhead), anarchy, and a world that excessively favors high class citizens, surveillance, and unchecked control.
40 years before the time in which author Kellyn Thompson’s novel takes place, there was a great War “that brought Order…the entire world’s society was contained in an orderly structure across the Eastern, Central, and Western Sectors.” These Sectors, each with their own President, are the regions of the world, and the only exception to this new Order is Mexico, which rejects the “Treaty of The Sectors to serve The Order.”
In the Sectors everything is monitored, engineered, and by design – from neighborhoods and social structure to physical properties of humans – and forgetting the past and preventing disruption is high on the world’s priority list. Agent Christopher Rockford plays a vital role in upholding the current values of the world: he’s the best assassin in the Western Sector’s employ. The biggest task of his career is eliminating a family of anarchists, who believe in maintaining knowledge of how the world used to be: less government interference, less blatant segregation of social classes, and natural human evolution/physical appearance.
From the very first page, this book puts family at the forefront of the story. Christopher Rockford thinks about how he wants to start a family; his closest friend and coworker Zaire has a wife, and Christopher sees their happiness as a situation he wants to aspire to. In this world couples are allowed to have children, but permits and tests are needed to do so – and both are at the government’s discretion. And then of course, there is the family that Christopher is hired to kill. At the beginning of the novel, there is little to no gray area for Christopher when it comes to right and wrong. The family – the Robertsons – head a major network of people opposed to the Order, and because this opposition is wrong, Christopher is dedicated to wiping them out – no questions necessary. Christopher sees this new world as a more practical one, and he sees (as well as the rest of the government) the tight-knit Robertson family as a threat to the shiny, controlled comforts most generations by now accept and are familiar with.
Living in Washington D.C., Christopher, Zaire, and other Coastals are afforded luxuries and advantages – like government permits, leisure, wealth – that people living away from the coast – Inlanders – are not. Inlanders are the working class of the world. They fuel all communities, especial Coastal communities, and are not privy to the same advantages. Christopher doesn’t see this as a problem, of course, until he meets an Inlander, Jenna Macklemore, during a trip that is part of his Robertson family mission (in Des Moines). They share drinks, dinner, and connect in a way Christopher never expected. Jenna is a Purebred: an unmodified individual, and Christopher is taken aback by this, because Purebreds live only in designated Purebred Communities, and are only allowed into society if they are given an official societal role of some kind.
Not surprisingly, Christopher and Jenna spend much more time together in the following days, as Christopher tries to track down the remaining Robertson family member. Their relationship has most of the characteristics of a cheesy, love-at-first-sight type of romance, but Kellyn Thompson’s way with dialogue and details give these two characters such personality and dimension that uphold the plot and never threaten to derail the themes within the story.
Through the public’s interactions with Jenna, Christopher learns just how different life is like for people who grew up unchanged in the world after the War, and in his own interactions with the Inlander public, learns how many discrepancies there are between society’s classes. As a government employee these observations start to take their toll on him; some affect him much more than he could ever imagine. By the end of the book, he has to decide whether or not the structure of his world is more important than love, happiness, and ultimate freedom.
While the predictability levels of The Unexpected Inlander are high, there’s no denying that this is an important novel of societal discourse, pleasurable reading, and attractive mystery that keeps you hooked to the very end.