One – Eve Smith | Book Review | #One | Speculative Fiction | @evecsmith @OrendaBooks @RandomTTours

Publisher: Orenda Books
Format: Ebook, Audio and Paperback (20 July 2023)
Source: Ecopy to review from publisher

A catastrophic climate emergency has spawned a one-child policy in the UK, ruthlessly enforced by a totalitarian regime. Compulsory abortion of ‘excess’ pregnancies and mandatory contraceptive implants are now the norm, and families must adhere to strict consumption quotas as the world descends into chaos.

Kai is a 25-year-old ‘baby reaper’, working for the Ministry of Population and Family Planning. If any of her assigned families attempts to exceed their child quota, she ensures they pay the price.

Until, one morning, she discovers that an illegal sibling on her Ministry hit- list is hers. And to protect her parents from severe penalties, she must secretly investigate before anyone else finds out.

Kai’s hunt for her forbidden sister unearths much more than a dark family secret. As she stumbles across a series of heinous crimes perpetrated by the people she trusted most, she makes a devastating discovery that could bring down the government … and tear her family apart.


My thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for the invite and to the publisher for the ecopy to review.

A life under the One Party is a terrifying prospect. Set in the future, the party has been in power in the UK for about 50 years and the world has suffered catastrophically from climate change. Areas of the country are now unrecognisable following flooding and the party imposes draconian policies to control its people. Travel, health status’, food and energy quotas are all monitored but the most frightening of all is the one child policy. Anyone who falls foul of this rule faces the most horrifying consequences.

Our main character Kai Houghton, is a Ministry Representative for Population and Family Planning. Population has to be controlled and it is her job to enforce the rules – no exceptions. Which places her in the most awful dilemma when she discovers something that will have major repercussions for her own family.

I do love good speculative fiction and ‘One‘ is one of the best I’ve read. It’s scarily plausible when you see how governments around the world are enforcing outrageous policies.

I didn’t care much for Kai initially. I thought her overzealous and completely indoctrinated to the cause without questioning the morality of her job. However as the story progressed and truths were gradually revealed, my opinion changed. In contrast, I took to Senka straight away. She was such a strong character who had suffered terribly but her bravery and the strength of her convictions were matched by her humanity and her desire to right wrongs.

Much human interaction and function has been replaced by bots – androids in human form. Even pets have been banned and bot animals have taken their place.

Both Kai and Senka have been superbly crafted and each character comes alive on the page as they encounter so much injustice and corruption. Kai has a particular tic – showing a vulnerability and humanity to her character despite the inhumane nature of her job.

One is such an immersive and compelling thriller. Although this is fiction there is so much here that is relatable – with themes including how immigrants are treated (sound familiar) and the loss of personal autonomy which all makes for a thought provoking story with its horrifying scenarios. I thought it was excellent – not preachy but full of drama and tension. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

Eve Smith writes speculative thrillers, mainly about the things that scare her. Longlisted for the Not the Booker Prize and described by Waterstones as ‘an exciting new voice in crime fiction’, Eve’s debut novel, The Waiting Rooms, set in the aftermath of an antibiotic resistance crisis, was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize First Novel Award and was a Book of the Month in the Guardian, who compared her writing to Michael Crichton’s. It was followed by Off-Target, about a world where genetic engineering of children is routine. Eve’s previous job at an environmental charity took her to research projects across Asia, Africa and the Americas, and she has an ongoing passion for wild creatures, wild science and far-flung places. She lives in Oxfordshire with her family.

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