Juli Zeh's The Method is a very believable dystopian, science-fiction thriller. It is a different take of themes explored in novels like 1984 and Brave New World. The novel is set in a future Germany, not too different from the current version, except society is controlled by a strict set of rules known as “The Method”.
The Method is an all-encompassing health regime that every member of society is legally obliged to follow. Every person must eat the right foods, excluding those deemed unhealthy. Everyone must do the right amount of exercise. People are only allowed to mate with those who have compatible immune systems. Anyone who fails to follow the rules is arrested and rehabilitated.
An individual’s commitment to The Method is tracked by microchips embedded in them, and by their toilets that automatically examine their urine. Each member of society has an exercise bike on which they must complete a certain amount of kilometres per week.
The novel revolves around Mia Holl whose devotion to The Method is waning. She is eating the wrong foods, and falling behind in exercising. She is upset about the execution of her brother Moritz. He was found guilty of murdering a woman he desired. Mia and her imaginary friend, the Ideal Imorata, are convinced her brother was innocence.
Mia is put on trial for her lack of devotion. While on trial Kramer, the public face of The Method, visits her. He was partly responsible for the conviction of her brother. Kramer tries to convince Mia to return to The Method. He is concerned her faltering conviction to The Method will be noticed more by the general public because of her brother’s execution. He worries she might cause others to question The Method. Like 1984, the novel is about the need of a dictatorial society to eliminate all dissent.
The Method was written by German Juli Zeh and translated into English by Sally-Ann Spencer. They have written a thriller where each scene builds on the tension of its predecessor. Zeh had a number of quirky ways of introducing chapters. Sometimes she wrote in second person as she foreshadowed coming events. Her writing flows, but has a formality to it, which emphasised Mia’s scientific background and analytical mindset.
Mia is a different type of main character, one who does not display her emotions, preferring to analyse the world around her. But she uses an imaginary companion to express her emotions.
Kramer is a charming ruthless fanatic who will do anything to protect The Method. He is very reminiscent of many current politicians.
The novel’s themes resonate with the desire of real world governments to monitor and control their citizens. The novel asks if the increasing amount of data collected by governments could be arranged by overzealous authorities to show the guilt of anyone they choose to investigate. Data could be arranged like incorrect forensic evidence was used to wrongly convict Lindy Chamberlain of murdering her child.
The Method is a novel for readers who enjoy stories that cause them to think about society and where it is heading. With increasing surveillance and concerns about massive health expenditure, a version of The Method could become a reality.