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Expiration Day

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Overview

Expiration Day is an insightful coming-of-age novel set in the near future by debut author William Campbell Powell.

It is the year 2049, and humanity is on the brink of extinction.

Tania Deeley has always been told that she’s a rarity: a human child in a world where most children are sophisticated androids manufactured by Oxted Corporation. When a decline in global fertility ensued, it was the creation of ...

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Expiration Day

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Overview

Expiration Day is an insightful coming-of-age novel set in the near future by debut author William Campbell Powell.

It is the year 2049, and humanity is on the brink of extinction.

Tania Deeley has always been told that she’s a rarity: a human child in a world where most children are sophisticated androids manufactured by Oxted Corporation. When a decline in global fertility ensued, it was the creation of these near-perfect human copies called teknoids that helped to prevent the utter collapse of society.

Though she has always been aware of the existence of teknoids, it is not until her first day at The Lady Maud High School for Girls that Tania realizes that her best friend, Siân, may be one. Returning home from the summer holiday, she is shocked by how much Siân has changed. Is it possible that these changes were engineered by Oxted? And if Siân could be a teknoid, how many others in Tania’s life are not real?

Driven by the need to understand what sets teknoids apart from their human counterparts, Tania begins to seek answers. But time is running out. For everyone knows that on their eighteenth “birthdays,” teknoids must be returned to Oxted—never to be heard from again. 

Told in diary format, Expiration Day is the powerful and poignant story of a young girl coming of age and discovering what it means to be truly human by a talented debut novelist.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
02/03/2014
It’s 2049, and with most of humanity rendered mysteriously infertile, immaculately realistic robotic children called teknoids serve as outlets for adults’ stymied parental urges. Tania Deeley grows up believing she’s one of the few human children left. First-time novelist Powell gets the obvious twist—that Tania herself is a teknoid—out of the way early, focusing instead on the dilemmas that result. If Tania isn’t a real person, why can she perform music, grieve the dead, and even fall in love? And what happens to Tania when her parents’ 18-year lease on her ends? This story covers an unusually long span of time and comes out the stronger for it. The chatty 11-year-old who begins this diary-style novel is very different from the determined 17-year-old who ends it, but the transition is natural, and the essence of Tania’s voice stays true. Sometimes the exposition gets clunky, as in a weighty testimony about teknoid history and neurobiology toward the end of the book, but Tania’s creativity, pathos, and personality prove that she’s just as much a person as any flesh-and-blood human. Ages 13–up. (Apr.)
School Library Journal
05/01/2014
Gr 9 Up—It's the year 2049, and human fertility has drastically declined worldwide. On the brink of a societal collapse, the Oxted Corporation developed teknoids, highly sophisticated robots that stand in for children and are leased to surrogate parents. These teknoids are virtually indistinguishable from human children, and society has become relatively normalized to their presence. This is the world that 11-year-old Tania Deeley inhabits. As she starts secondary school, she begins to wonder which of her friends and classmates are human and which are robots. Even scarier, teknoids are returned to the Oxted Corporation on their 18th birthdays—they are truly children without a future. As Tania moves through adolescence, she begins to rebel more and more against a society in which teknoids are second-class citizens who are "deactivated" at age 18. This is an in-depth exploration into a dystopian society and what it truly means to be human, with many universal teen themes as well: music, romance, body image, family issues. Tania and her friends have believably complex relationships, with the added stress of figuring out who is and is not a teknoid and what that means for relationships. Taking place over several years, the story line, told through diary entries, moves at an uneven pace at times, especially as it races (confusingly) to the end. Still, fans of sci-fi and dystopian fiction will appreciate this tale.—Jenny Berggren, formerly at New York Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-03
In this coming-of-age diary, a girl navigates life in a dystopic near-future. By the year 2049, the world has become a rather unfriendly place for humans and robots alike. England is divided into color-coded zones, parts of the African continent are shadowed in mystery, and very few humans are still able to procreate. Any woman who can conceive and make it past the first trimester is whisked off to live as a Mother. The global robotics giant Oxted has filled the familial void with the teknoid, "an android that specifically looks like a child." Teknoids are upgraded several times to mimic growing children before the company reclaims them around the 18th birthdays, provided that the parents can maintain the illusion and never enter the Uncanny Valley of disbelief. Through the diary of Tania Deeley, Powell has created a terrifyingly plausible future. Readers follow Tania through six years of her adolescence, as she realizes she's a teknoid, finds love, embraces grief and ultimately discovers her own humanity. The author pays homage to the genre's giants while combining realistic characters (both human and android) and detailed worldbuilding with an unpredictably optimistic conclusion. In the end, the thoughtful balance of narrative and description and the well-paced plot are marred only by a mildly distracting subplot that unreels in interstitial "Intervals." An auspicious debut. (Science fiction. 13 & up)
From the Publisher
“A remarkable and heart-filled look at what it means to be human. If you’re not in tears by the last chapter, you’ve a hard heart indeed.” —Cory Doctorow, New York Times bestselling author of Little Brother and Homeland

“This is an in-depth exploration into a dystopian society and what it truly means to be human, with many universal teen themes as well: music, romance, body image, family issues. Tania and her friends have believably complex relationships, with the added stress of figuring out who is and is not a teknoid and what that means for relationships…. Fans of sci-fi and dystopian fiction will appreciate this tale.” —School Library Journal

“Through the diary of Tania Deeley, Powell has created a terrifyingly plausible future… The author pays homage to the genre’s giants while combining realistic characters (both human and android) and detailed worldbuilding with an unpredictably optimistic conclusion… An auspicious debut.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This debut novel’s premise…raises very interesting and meaningful questions about philosophy, humanity, personal choice, and feminism, which could lead to rich discussions. Hand this title to fans of Margaret Atwood’s classic, The Handmaid’s Tale (1986), and Veronica Roth’s Divergent (2011).”Booklist

“The chatty 11-year-old who begins this diary-style novel is very different from the determined 17-year-old who ends it, but the transition is natural, and the essence of Tania’s voice stays true.… Tania’s creativity, pathos, and personality prove that she’s just as much a person as any flesh-and-blood human.” —Publishers Weekly

“This dystopic future is a memorable one, placed about forty years ahead in a world where the robotic children’s inevitable end is mitigated only slightly by the still very real, intense love parents feel for their teknoid offspring. While sci-fi buffs might be the likeliest audience, an extra push to realistic fiction fans may have them contemplating the ways in which Tania comes of age and how little it differs from what they are themselves experiencing.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765338280
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 4/22/2014
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 174,000
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: HL760L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

WILLIAM CAMPBELL POWELL was born in Sheffield, England, and grew up in and around Birmingham, the “second city” of England. He attended King Edward’s School in Birmingham and won a scholarship to Clare College, Cambridge, where initially he studied Natural Sciences and subsequently majored in Computer Science. He now lives in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, with his wife, Avis, and his two teenage sons. Expiration Day is his first novel.

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Read an Excerpt

Sunday, July 18, 2049

 

What a funny old day!

We got a robot today. And it was my eleventh birthday. So I thought I’d start to write a diary, because it was a weird day, and if you can’t even write a decent diary when you’ve got something to write about, what chance have you got when the days are dry and dreary?

But I’m not going to start every entry with “Dear Diary” or anything so Victorian. That would be just so wet. Anyway, I want to decide who’s going to read it. Whoever you are, my distant, unknown friend, I need to see you in my mind.

Maybe no one will read my diary, except me when I’m ninety. So just in case, “Hello, me-of-twenty-one-twenty-eight! This is me-of-twenty-forty-nine.”

Maybe, though, my grandchildren are reading this. “Hello, grandkids! This is your dotty granny Tania writing, before she lost her marbles. I hope you’ve found me a nice home.”

No, I don’t hope any such thing. If I have to become anybody’s granny, please don’t let me be a boring granny. Instead I shall be a grand Dame, knighted for my services to the country, and I shall tell fabulous stories, mostly true, about my adventures as a spy, or a detective, or an actress. So by 2128 you’ll need me, whoever you are, because there won’t be many like me left.

And if you’re just a boring old historian, or some kind of slimy-tentacled alien archaeologist called Zog from the Andromeda galaxy, trying to find out who on earth I am and what human beings were …

Do you have churches in Andromeda, Mister Zog? Weddings, christenings, and funerals? Too much detail, I think, at least for today. Anyway, my dad is a vicar. And in these times he has a lot to do. He says thirty years ago the churches were empty. Now they’re full. Full of unhappy people, looking for help to make things bearable. Looking for the little rituals that make things feel normal.

The church business is good. But vicars are still poor. Mum says he’s keeping half the village sane, but still we live on people’s cast-offs. We have Value Beans in the larder. Our vid is someone’s old 2-D model. And our “new” robot is a reconditioned ’44 model, donated by a kindly parishioner.

But we have a robot, a real, honest-to-goodness robot. And Dad says even the bishop only has a ’47 model. Ted, one of the churchwardens, dropped him off. Him? It? I’m going to keep on saying “him” for now, as his voice was rather deep, and very “Home Counties.”

We called him—the robot—Soames. It seemed like the perfect name for a 1930s butler—right out of an Agatha Christie 3-Dram. Dad activated him, and I watched as the eyes lit up for the first time. I asked Dad about that, and he smiled.

“Yes, there really isn’t any need for glowing eyes. They’re more for show, part of a retro look, that the psychologists say makes us feel more comfortable with them around. We see all the old-fashioned twentieth-century sci-fi movies, and we laugh, because they’re so quaint. This is the same thing—robots deliberately made to look clunky and antique, and act like it, too, so we feel superior, rather than feel afraid.”

We had to do an imprinting, of course, to get Soames to recognize the voices of his new owners, so that he’d obey our orders.

“Michael Deeley, primary registrant. Acknowledge.” That was Dad.

“Acknowledged.”

“Annette Deeley, secondary registrant. Acknowledge.” Mum.

“Acknowledged.”

“Tania Deeley, junior registrant. Acknowledge.” Me, reading from the instruction manual and sounding very formal.

“Acknowledged.”

And that was it. Soames would obey Dad, then Mum, then me. In that order. There were a bunch of other commands built into his brain that we couldn’t override, sometimes called the Asimov Laws, after some ancient writer who came up with the idea. Dad says Asimov’s original laws were very simple, but Soames’s version had been made very complicated by the lawyers. So under stress any robot just became completely useless.

Anyway, we put Soames to work doing the washing up. He didn’t break anything, but I could have loaded up the dishwasher myself in half the time. Tomorrow, though, he will be faster, because he’s learned what to do and where to put the plates afterward.

And then, because it was the summer holidays, there was no school, so I got him to play table tennis, because it was my birthday and Dad said I deserved a treat for that. Soames spent most of the time picking up the balls, when he didn’t crush them underfoot (two destroyed) or knock them into the lamp shade (one out of reach).

Then we took him around the house, showing him where everything was. So we can tell him to tidy the house now, and everything will find its way back to where it was on my eleventh birthday. Or whenever.

Big deal.

Okay. I’m not frightened of domestic robots, honest. But can you make one that can play table tennis, please?

 

Copyright © 2014 by William Campbell Powell

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