I totally enjoyed reading 'The Beautiful Bureaucrat' (2015) by Helen Philips. Great pacing, cool plot and at the end, kinda left me going 'wow'. A sort of new world order. Perhaps a parallel dimension. It's sci-fi enough, but not a time travel paradox thing. (Reviews here, here, here and here.)
I am really glad that I didn't google anything about the book before reading it. It isn't thick and it's fairly quick to finish the 180+ pages. The thrill is in the twist in this book. So if you don't want to know the spoilers, don't read this post.
We get to know Josephine Newbury and her husband Joseph Jones who previously lived in the 'hinterland', and now they have moved to an unknown big city. Joseph has got a job; Josephine isn't so lucky, and only after a long while, managed to secure a new job at this company called The Database. She inputs data and has to keep all information confidential. They also want to have a baby. In what seems to be an ordinary life, it turns bizarre when she realizes what the company actually does. Her boss is known as Person With Bad Breath. Hahaha. No name, no gender.
In one quick turn of events, Josephine tries to investigate what her husband has been up to, and then learns she's pregnant, and then miscarries shortly. Because of data, and because it isn't written in her file for a pregnancy to happen. And then she discovers Joseph's death date, which is today, in the story. The husband works for the same company The Database. Via codes typed out on special typewriters and submitted for approvals, the company controls all decisions of how humans live or die, and when new births are approved. Josephine's pregnancy isn't approved. Joseph tried to shift things around to input data to create that new life. Free will is not a good thing in this world. If there's a pregnancy out of the books, someone else dies before his time. Many big ideas in the story. It's brilliant. I love how the author revived the use of typewriters, making them more powerful than they ever are.
"On three separate occasions," Trishiffany added.
"What do you expect," Joseph said, "once someone realizes he can create a life?""Zygote, Blastocyst, Embryo, Fetus!"
Josephine comprehended as she scrutinized the second row.
"Today's our embryo day," Joseph said. He put his finger on the 10082013 following the G3/E.10082013.10082013.
"But that's what's no good," Trishiffany said. "See how the number sags below the embryo-date line into the paternal-death-dateline? The typewritten text must remain entirely within its appointed space."