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The Firefly Code: 10/05/16
The Firefly Code by Megan Frazer Blakemore is a tween science fiction about a group of long time friends having their friendship turned upside down by the arrival of a new family to their street. Ilana and her family are from Calliope in California, a sister city to Old Harmonie. Both are company towns owned and run by Krita.
A well written dystopian novel has a sense of place and a sense of history. Dystopia is an exercise in extrapolation — taking a present day problem and seeing how it could affect society down the line.
These Kritopias are basically near future company towns like the old mining or factory towns built to provide shelter for workers and their families and to keep as much of the company profit in the company coffers. Krita wants to keep trade secrets and scientific discoveries to itself by providing homes, food, education, health services, and augmentations to its citizenry.
Old Harmonie also serves in the road narrative as a road not taken town. To the diehard citizens, and that of course, includes most of the children born and raised there, the outside world is a scary place full of disease and other dangers. Though not enclosed in a bio-dome, Old Harmonie is enough of a closed system to create a false sense of safety by exaggerating the dangers beyond its borders.
As I outlined in the Road Not Taken essay, these closed societies are disrupted either by the arrival of someone new or the departure of someone old. The Firefly Code remarkably has both. First and foremost it has the arrival of Iliana and her family. Later it has the children deciding to leave with her for reasons revealed over the course of the book.
The Firefly Code by Megan Frazer Blakemore has the appeal of television shows like Eureka, another company town with a scientific research bent, and Stranger Things, minus the threat of an extra-dimensional predator. There are literary nods to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and more recently, The Rules by Stacey Kade and 0.4 by Mike Lancaster.
In regards to the title, it's a little pun on all the different kinds of code at play in Firefly Five's lives. There is DNA and one's own genetic makeup which every child is shown upon their thirteenth birthday. There is computer programing and robotics, two things the company does — and two things that influence the way Mori sees the world. Then, of course, there is the sort of code of friendship that childhood friends come up with. Their decision and strife over the integration of Ilana into their group is very similar to Eleven's experience.
The book has an open ended conclusion. As a standalone, the ending gives plenty of room for classroom discussion or essay writing. I not so secretly hope it's a hook for a sequel. I want to see what happens to Mori and her friends as they hit the open road. I want to explore more of the world, especially the world outside of Old Harmonie.