I have just finished reading the book Futuretrack 5 by Robert Westall
I picked up this book on a whim from a library sale table for my 10 year old son to read. He enjoyed it and recommended to me, so I read it also. I was overall quite impressed. Reading reviews on Amazon it appears to be somewhat of an overlooked young adult classic. Not so many people have heard of it, but those who have read it, loved it.
Part Mad Max, part THX1138, and many parts all its own, this book takes place in a future England (it ends in 2012) where society is strictly divided into different classes. There are the Ests, these are the rich, elite educated class who enjoy comfortable homes in fancy estates, leisure time recreation and travel. Then there are the Unems who live in poverty and squalor in a violent urban society. Birth rates among the Unems are low, and death rates are high. The Ests suffer from birth rates higher than their system can maintain, so at the age of 21 all Ests are required to take E-level exams. Those scoring too low are cast out (through the “wire”) to become Unems. Those scoring high enough remain Ests, and those scoring perfect are destined to become Techs, a secret class of engineers and technicians that create and maintain all the advanced technologies that keep the society running. Although violence and death is a regular part of everyday life for the Unems, there are still laws and rules and those found breaking them are immediately whisked away by Paramils to a “lobo farm” where they are reduced to passive house servants for the Ests. The title refers to “Futuretracks” or job paths that some of the Unems take, including entertainment, competitive pinball, prostitution or deadly motorcycle racing (Futuretrack 5). The main character, Henry Kitson,  is born an Est, but scores 100% on his E levels and becomes a Tech and begins to learn the secrets of how things are run, but there is one big secret he can not find out concerning a mysterious Scott-Astbury and his “big mistake”. Bright, clever, strong and resourceful, Henry is not satisfied to babysit the main computer, “Laura” and her senile creator and decides to leave the system and find out what is really going on. He adventures outside of “the wire” with his Unem companion Keri and, showing his abilities to adapt and succeed at whatever challenges face him, discovers an entire world outside his previous life and teachings. His discoveries, and his subsequent decision to try to change the world for the better left me with a lot to think about, and sparked some interesting discussions in our household on the role of government and the merits of free will in society. The ending is far from black and white and could be considered happy, sad or somewhere in between based on your personal interpretation, which I guess is a testament to the depth of this book.