Project Purple, a Dystopian Page-Turner by Michael Greco

The Bottom Line: The Hunger Games meets Survivor. Equal parts dystopian thriller and satire, Project Purple is a truly memorable page-turner.

For a tidy sum of cash as well as the promise of bonuses and fame, 13 wildly diverse people agree to recreate a colonial experience as it was in the early 1600s, and have the entirety of their experience broadcast worldwide. The colonists in this fascinating and ultimately sadistic reality experiment come from all walks of life. Among the cast are Rigor, the Las Vegas detective who can find anyone, professional landscaper Susan Quietwind, who had twice competed on the Landscapers Challenge cable show, and the Governor, a professor of anthropology at a prestigious university.

Each colonist is appointed a role at the beginning of the project, ranging from the colony’s Herbalist to its Buckskinner, but all are given crash courses on skills such as fishing, farming, animal husbandry, basic tool handling and sharpening and embroidery. Told from alternating points of view, author Michael Greco’s biting wit and keen insight into primal social dynamics grab you on the very first page. Greco has a gift for biting comedy, and Project Purple is occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. But when the colony elves begin leaving tools of destruction (enter the cat o’ nine tails), the book begins a dark spiral that only becomes more engrossing with each succeeding chapter.

As you might imagine from the premise, author the novel is hardly short on political innuendo. Greco even breaks the colonies into two groups: red-staters, the seven colonists with more conservative, religious views, and blue-staters, and the more academic types (what could possibly go wrong?). But with the exception of a few contemporary references, Greco largely keeps the book above the fray of day-to-day politics, and focuses instead on humanity’s insatiable desire to build up icons and subsequently tear them down. At times, Greco is needlessly self-conscious (like the very meta reference to the Hunger Games). All things considered, however, Project Purple delivers the goods. Highly recommended.

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