Book Review: The Test by Sylvian Neuvel


Britain, the not-too-distant future.
Idir is sitting the British Citizenship Test.
He wants his family to belong.
Twenty-five questions to determine their fate. Twenty-five chances to impress.
When the test takes an unexpected and tragic turn, Idir is handed the power of life and death.
How do you value a life when all you have is multiple choice?


I’ve heard quite a bit about this author’s Themis Files series but as it’s sci-fi, I never planned to read it. I can’t even remember when this little novella came onto my radar, but I put it on my library hold and finally got it. And I frankly have no right words to describe this reading experience because my mind is totally blank right now.


As the summary is already present here above, I’m not gonna rehash it. The citizenship test here is just a plot device – what’s important is what the whole process symbolizes and the horde of existential questions it leaves us with. This book is about belonging – how far are you ready to go to belong to a place, especially if you are running from fearful circumstances and want to be a part of a much safer society. If you are made to choose between life and death for others, how will you decide who gets to live. This is a searing commentary on various biases and prejudices that exist, either subconsciously in us as an individual or pervasive in the society; and how much can we overcome them when faced with impossible choices. And finally it’s about choices – how each decision we make influences what happens to us next and how it changes us a person – and that’s why we should be very careful in every decision we make.


To conclude, this is probably the vaguest review I have ever written but I don’t know what else to say. This book a total mindfuck and just leaves you stunned and unsure of everything around you. So, I would definitely recommend this but be sure you are in the right mindset to be able to handle it. If you are someone who is going to be giving a citizenship test in the near future, this book might be very anxiety inducing, so please be mindful of that. And if you are someone who loves reading about dystopian worlds which feel too close to our reality (something like Internment by Samira Ahmed, or even the Handmaid’s Tale or 1984), then this book is perfect for you.

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