I think I distinctly remember this novel as being a clear post-apocalyptic novel when I first read in about 2001 or so. Maybe it was my own age then (20) versus my age now (39) and maybe it was the sense of a different time then (though I don’t know for sure if it was pre or post 9/11), but this felt impossibly far away.
Now, approaching the actual date of the novel, it’s so clearly not a post-apocalypse novel and more so either a pre-apocalypse, or slow-apocalypse. It’s 2025 and Lauren is a “super feeler” from a drug her mother took while pregnant with her. She can feel (for reals) other people’s pain and this causes her to shape her world around trying to make sense of the deliberate and unnecessary pain she sees people feeling and afflicting daily. She begins to develop a religion out of this world view ala the idea that existence is change.
She lives in a neighborhood compound (a cul de sac or so surrounded by wall) and she can slowly see the pieces of society that might still be functioning being picked off and destroyed and is realizing that the world is crumbling and will continue to crumble. And worse, it’s happening too slowly to do much about it. It’s a novel purely in a state of transition.
“Cities controlled by big companies are old hat in science fiction. My grandmother left a whole bookcase of old science fiction novels. The company-city subgenre always seemed to star a hero who outsmarted, overthrew, or escaped “the company.” I’ve never seen one where the hero fought like hell to get taken in and underpaid by the company. In real life, that’s the way it will be. That’s the way it always is.”