Title: The Marriage Act
Author: John Marrs
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genre: General Fiction, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Thriller,
Suspense, Speculative Fiction
Release Date: 19th January 2023
BLURB from Goodreads
What if marriage was the law? Dare you disobey?
Britain. The near future. A right wing government believes it has the answer to society’s ills – the Sanctity of Marriage Act which actively encourages marriage as the norm, punishing those who choose to remain single.
But four couples are about to discover just how impossible relationships can be when the government is monitoring every aspect of our personal lives, monitoring every word, every minor disagreement…And it will use every tool in its arsenal to ensure everyone will love, honour and obey!
The cover is quite simplistic yet still manages to be striking. After reading both The One and The Passengers and loving them both, as soon as I heard about this book coming out soon it was straight on my to read list! Then I later learnt that it is actually set in the same world as The One & The Passengers and I’ll be honest I felt a bit nervous, would this book live up to the other two books I had read set in the futuristic world built by John Marrs. Need not have worried at all as it fits in perfectly with the other two books, in fact I loved this one even more than The One.
The world setting is futuristic, you can find your true soulmate by matching DNA with them, cars are driverless and are used in a car pool way. The world is full of influencers, everyone seems to want to be the next “big thing”.
In The Marriage Act, marriage is actively encouraged and well rewarded if you know how the system works and can keep on the right side of it. People being single is really looked down on and by the rewards that marriage reaps, it means that being single is not a financially viable option if you want to live in a nice area and have a comfortable lifestyle. I mean I guess the real winners of the situation are those that are “happily married” right? Well not necessarily, as to gain the privileges that come with the marriage act you have to have an “Audite system” installed in your home meaning every word you utter to your partner can be recorded and in certain circumstances can be used against either of you. The main error of the Audite system is that it is computer run. So, for example a couple that has a snarky wit with each other will come across as arguing all the time and be flagged by the system. They are given a warning and the system literally prompts them to be nicer and say better phrases of encouragement and of a more loving nature. If the computerised system doesn’t think the couple are improving enough then a “Relationship Responder” is sent out to evaluate the relationship, give counselling and pointers on how to improve the relationship to level the computerised system thinks/is set at to be considered acceptable. If this fails then your case is set before a court who will decide whether you should stay married or be divorced. Of course, there are still couples who decide to divorce themselves but this is rare as once in the system of being rewarded for being together, making an equivalent standard of life apart would be challenging. Even those widowed are not left alone to grieve their loss in peace, they are actively encouraged to date and remarry. Of course, when you are no longer in a relationship you lose all those benefits you earnt so some people seek to stay in an unhealthy relationship and try to hide the fact it is merely a marriage of convenience. Those without a partner due to being widowed face the choice of a huge drop in their living standards, or start dating even if they don’t feel ready to do so.
The book follows different sets of couples and we learn about their experiences with The Marriage Act and how their relationships are scrutinised and affected if Relationship Responders are needed and sent to their homes. I think the couple and story that really stood out to me was that of Arthur and June, their story had me really filling up. It pulled you in, really held you, then had you going “oh no” and “wow” all at the same time. The Relationship Responder was so determined to gain access to their home they actually lay in wait and followed Arthur on a rare journey to the store, then took him back home as though they were doing him a favour. Sadly, at that moment Arthur knows life is going to change for him and his beloved June forever as soon as the Relationship Responder gains access to them in their cosy little home. Each of the other couples have their own stories of how they came together, how they became embroiled with the “Marriage Act”. Then there are those individuals who stood out, Roxi and older woman wishing she was the popular much younger vlogger Jem. Roxi see’s Jem as all she wants to be and of having all she would like in her life too. When Jem tragically dies, Roxi is determined to fill that space that Jem filled as an influencer. However, Jem Jones is not all she seemed to be at all, and Roxi soon realises that having such a visible life is not all its cracked up to be.
The character that I really enjoyed disliking was the main Relationship Responder we followed, a rather sad bloke who lived in his car when not staying at a “struggling couples” house. He became obsessed with every detail of the couple he was “helping” and at times enjoyed pitting them against each other. He was definitely of the “bunny boiler” variety!
I thoroughly enjoyed the references to current affairs as well as things that were in The One and The Passengers. Don’t worry though you don’t really need to have read either of those books first before reading this one, though I do recommend reading them both at some point!
This book is thought provoking and you honestly can’t help but firstly put yourself “in the shoes” of the characters in the book and wonder what you would have done if anything differently in their positions. Secondly it had me thinking about marriage, being divorced due to an abusive relationship it had me thinking how easy or difficult it would be for someone in the position I was in, but in this books setting…..would the Audite work in their favour in helping them get a divorce and escape any abuse or would the fact that Marriage gave a better standard of living than being single/divorced have people putting up with abusive situations. Definitely makes you think a lot, which I love.
My first thoughts upon finishing the book were that it was highly thought provoking, and shockingly believable as a future prospect. A fantastic range of different characters all with their own expectations of marriage, all trapped by the increasingly intrusive use of Artificial Intelligence forced upon them. 'Big Brother' is not only watching, assessing and recording but coming up with constant hoops & hurdles you have to jump through to prove your marriage is working.
Summing up, I really enjoyed reading this book and fond it interesting and thought provoking too. The thing is it’s the type of book that stays with you after you have finished reading it, rather like The One and The Passengers did. They are all speculative fiction and so set in a futuristic world but they are all also really believable and the scary thing is I wouldn’t say they are really far ahead in the future either!
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