Review Blog

Oct 26 2010

Candor by Pam Bachorz

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Hardie Grant Egmont, 2010. ISBN 9781921564826.
Suggested reading 15 years onwards. Candor is a technologically advanced, exclusive town which exists cloistered from contemporary mainstream Florida society. Residence within the town is highly sought after by wealthy families who join a long waiting list to gain approval from its founder and owner Mr. Banks.
Superficially, the town is perfect, being drug, alcohol and crime free and possessing excellent education and health facilities alongside magnificent houses on manicured streetscapes.
The unrealistic flawlessness of the town provides a hint of sinister influences which are gradually revealed by the protagonist Oscar Banks, the seemingly perfect son of the town's massively wealthy founder. Mr. Banks senior strives to control his residents and maintain their obedience and devotion to the town by playing inaudible subliminal messages. The messages are nothing short of mind control and the town's residents little more than automatons programmed by an egomaniac. The psychological manipulation is so intrusive that people have no free will and whilst they consider themselves happy and fulfilled, this is merely an artificial construct produced by the messages which determine every aspect of their lives.
Eventually residents become addicted to the messages. Aspirations to move elsewhere are suppressed and people are prevented from physically distancing themselves from the manipulative influences by resultant ill effects such as withdrawl symptoms and even psychosis.
Banks senior's deeds are reprehensible, however his misguided intention is to create a wholesome society with family values, moral relations and good health. The fact that he causes mental illness escapes him.
Oscar Banks has discovered his father's secret and develops methods of resisting and moderating the subliminal directives. The reader finds hope that he is able to undermine or confront his father, especially when Oscar becomes smitten by a new resident, the beautiful Nia, who is clearly non-conformist.
Bachorz cleverly beguiles us however because it becomes apparent that Oscar is a slimy individual, being motivated purely by personal financial gain and sexual favours. Classic themes would portray Oscar protecting Nia, allowing them both to escape and hopefully free the townsfolk by notifiying external authorities. However this author is brave in devising a truly repugnant character as the anti-hero, even if this part of the plot is perhaps unsatisfying because of it.
Oscar is mercenary, immoral and completely selfish. He is seemingly unaware of his own hypocrisy in condemning his father whilst perpetuating similar practices for his own ends. The reader is repulsed by his childish obsession with his needs in the damaging manipulation of his victims. It is dismaying that Oscar desires the affections of Nia even when inducement is necessary to artificially synthesise them and the self acceptance of his predatory behaviour was disturbing.
Readers will be interested to discover how the narrative develops.
Rob Welsh

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