Voracious reader and DPhil candidate blogs about books and scholarly life.
Though I received this particular book via NetGalley, it had already been published (June 2014) when I reviewed it. Having taken a look at other reviews, I discovered that the first thing everyone needed to comment on was the cover’s uncanny similarity to another young adult dystopian series. No, I really didn’t expect to find anything new in this series.
Ceri A. Lowe
If you would judge this book by its cover, you would likely buy, or not buy, it for all the wrong reasons. The dystopia is a theme so common in young adult literature that it is only outclassed by the all too immortal vegetarian-or-not vampire. And to make matters worse, the cover is an absolute Divergent ripoff, as many have noted before me. This is a real shame, because Lowe has managed to come up with an original approach to the genre.
It is rare to see a dystopian society through the eyes of someone who agrees with the system; it is even rarer to see the society through the eyes of the person who created it in the first place. Through the use of two separate storylines, set 87 years apart, Lowe gives us both.
One male storyline, one female: does this remind one of Divergent after all? Still, no. Surprisingly enough, this novel has no central romance plot line in the traditional sense. There is love, and many beautiful and some heartbreaking things happen because there is love, but there is no cheesy girl-wants-boy or boy-wants-girl chase. As a matter of fact, there is only one kiss in the novel, which is beautifully described. And that with one protagnist whose mother is a prostitute.
This protagonist is Alice, and she is the one who sets up a new society after the apocalyptic event called the Storms. She fully supports the idea of absolute equality and of the removal of everything that might remind people of a life before the Storms, including the destruction of all art, music and books. And, after having seen her life as it was before the Storms, one cannot help but fully agreeing with her ideas, knowing that her new life is a thousand times better than the one she led before.
The second storyline has Carter as its protagonist, who lives 87 years after the Storms. The world that Alice had helped set up has grown, and Carter is set to become its next Controller General. Carter is supposedly some kind of childhood genius, top of his class in everything, until at age 15 he is frozen and kept in a suspended state for fifteen years. Why this is done, is not explained in this book. Right now, it merely seems to be a slightly odd plot device that makes it possible for Carter to emerge in a future world, in which society seems to have changed, without him having aged. The problem with Carter’s perspective, however, is that most of his behaviour looks extremely unrealistic. For a boy genius with massive ambitions, he behaves pretty stupidly, falling into a trap a less intelligent reader sees coming from miles away.
The two storylines together, however, create a perfectly circular weave in which the smallest details of the story begin to make sense even with the ninety years that lie between them. This makes for a compelling read. One final jar to the eye is given by the many proofreading errors, though hopefully these have been smoothed out somewhere between the release of my advance reading copy and the final edition.
I’m looking forward to read the second and third instalments in this trilogy, though I wonder why everything has to come in a trilogy these days. What I especially hope to learn more about is the Storms: though hints are given that these have to do with pollution and global warming in some way, the underground building that shelters those who survive the Storms is a little too perfectly planned for it all to be a coincidence.