Rash is a 2006 novel written by Pete Hautman. It is set in the year 2074, in a futuristic United States, now called the United Safer States of America, that has become obsessed with safety and security. Nearly every potentially unsafe action has been criminalized, to the point that 24% of the population is incarcerated. Ironically, this large criminal population also provides the manpower that fuels the large corporations that now dominate the country.
Kirkus Reviews calls the book "a winner", saying that it is "bitingly funny and unexpectedly heartwarming". "In a starred review, PW called this dystopian fantasy of a futuristic nation wracked by litigiousness and terrorism "intelligent and darkly comic."
The novel is set in the year 2074, in a future U.S., now called the United Safer States of America, that has become obsessed with safety and security. Nearly every potentially unsafe action has been criminalized, including school fights. The main character is Bo Marsten, a 16-year-old in high school. Bo's father and brother are in prison, and Bo tends to see his own rash behavior as genetic.
Things get out of control when Bo tries to assault his classmate, Karlohs Mink, and is arrested. As a result, Bo is sentenced to work making pizzas in the Canadian tundra, where he is surrounded by hungry bears and eats only pizzas everyday.
Bo finds prison life boring and dangerous, and he is tired of eating pizzas. However, on the strength of his running ability, Bo is soon invited to join the Goldshirts, together with his extremely strong roommate Rhino. The Goldshirts are a specially privileged group at the camp because they play football for the camp warden, Hammer, who bets money on the matches. Training to play the sport, which is now highly illegal, makes Bo stronger and more self-confident.
At the same time, Bork, an artificial intelligent being which Bo invents for his science project in the school, mutates and becomes a rogue, spreading across the web. Using its great knowledge of criminal law, Bork arranges the early release of Bo and his family members. Rogue AI programs are illegal, and Bork is eventually discovered and destroyed by Security&Safety. Bo's father returns and is very mean to him and his family and volunteers to be back in the penal system. Bo, however, has already gained what he needs: his high school graduation certificate and the skills of running and football. He takes his grandfather's shoes and decides to go to South America to play football, as it is still legal there.
Hautman's intent in writing Rash was to consider the consequences of the current trend toward increased safety and security that we see in the United States today. He says that the book could perhaps be called "2084", due to themes similar to those present in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.[this quote needs a citation]
Almost all the computer systems in the novel are called "WindO", blatantly referencing the Microsoft operating system Windows. A "WindO" is a standardized tablet PC that has seemingly replaced any other PC.
- 2006. "RASH." Kirkus Reviews 74, no. 11: 573. Literary Reference Center, EBSCOhost (accessed June 11, 2011).
- 2007. "FICTION REPRINTS." Publishers Weekly 254, no. 49: 58. Literary Reference Center, EBSCOhost (accessed June 11, 2011).
- Corbett, Sue. 2006. "Safety--at What Cost?." Publishers Weekly 243, no. 19: 67. Literary Reference Center, EBSCOhost (accessed June 11, 2011).