I sentence Julianna Baggott to her choices, their consequences and nothing but that. Review:
This is a really, really
rare rating for me, but I didn't just enjoy this book. It was one of those special reads where I lost track of time and forgot where I was. I literally couldn't even put down the book to eat and such. It was as if I were from Pressia's world after the Detonations, fused to this book.
I was curious about this book due to its similarities to much of the dystopian teen that has been released post-Hunger Games, except that apparently this does not constitute as teen (in my book store, anyway).
The first thing that struck me about Baggott's work was how un-pure everything seemed. It was like the world had become a filthy and grotesque place, filled with monsters and warped humans (I wouldn't go as far as calling them sub-humans). It was ugly. And I adored her story for this. After all, ugliness is everywhere and beauty can only exist in the absence of it and because of it.
There were aspects of this book that reminded me of Battle Royale
; perhaps it is the utter brutality and recruitment of the OSR, or even the violence and no nonsense attitude of the people of this earth. Kill or be killed. Even when Pressia questions whether or not she could kill someone ("is it wrong to kill someone who wants to kill you?"), she is finally able to kill out of mercy.
The hardened and bleak outlooks of these teenagers and adults alike are a reminder of what has been done in the past and what could happen in the future.
I admit that Baggott's version seems a little fantastical (with nothing terribly fantastic about it) with the fusing, genetic horrors and even Death Sprees, but some of it rings true. Biological warfare has always been a concern for those studying nuclear proliferation and different forms of weaponry. Why not something that could alter human genetics? It's a horrific thought and part of me hopes what Partridge's father did would never be able to be sanctioned, but even though the past is never fully explained in this book, it made me start to doubt our own government's capabilities.
Baggott does not falter in letting her dark humour slip in through this entire mess, nor the little snippets from the past that the characters may not fully understand, but readers silently nod to, discerning.
There is not much I can criticize about this story yet, as this is "just the beginning". Instead, I will list what I appreciated most:1. The romance between two main characters is not the central theme. There is something bigger than them, that they are working towards. Pressia and Bradwell are clearly an item, but even Pressia is not blinded by her feelings for him. She recognizes that even this may be limited. Partridge and Lyda may also be a future item, but from Lyda's perspective it is learned that she is not head-over-heels in love with him. I respect that.
2. Everything seems to flow and nothing is perfect. Whether it is Partridge's (and Pressia's) mothers botched up trail to her burrow; or Bradwell's knowledge of conspiracies about the Detonations; even Lyda's unasked for duties as the messenger; these characters all collide together almost beautifully. They need each other. Even El Capitan (whom I completely understand and respect for both his "burden" and his hope for something more...maybe even his awesome name) who, at first, appears to hate all of the Pure, but is also compassionate. Much of these instances are chance and Partridge's mother admits she had to leave many trails behind, out of desperation and a last-minute attempt to keep in touch with him. Aribelle's unexpected death flowed nicely with the story, as tragic, sudden and imperfect as it was. Unlike many stories, and much like reality, Partridge didn't get to tell her everything he wanted to. Pressia didn't get to share her few memories of Before or even of now. It's not that their story is devoid of happiness, it's just imperfect.
3. It is like steampunk, but in a category of its own. This sort of reminded me of a modern steampunk story, with less of the steam power and more of the stranger technologies in a time of base modes of survival and what appears to be anarchy. Even these genetically altered hybrids and what the Dome calls "wretches" are man-made or caused by human intervention. For those who have read Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, may understand why this may be an aspect of a steampunk-influenced society. It is not quite steampunk due to little things like the "black boxes" that homed in on the Dome; a lack of Victorian culture (or even old Western, though the Dust somehow reminds me of it); and the fact that they are in the future and they remember things of the past, including the technology. They are not without their technological beginnings.
4. Clever little truths here and there, whether we notice/understand them or not. Like how the tune for the ABC's is the same as Twinkle, Twinkle. Or the nod to suicide, the stigma associated with it and how that is different in the Dome. Maybe we cannot understand this, but it's a brave new world, and things are not at all pleasant and exciting as one would expect, in the future (even under the protection of the Dome). Both Pressia and Partridge think about their differences in culture, due to their adapted living and surviving habits. Pressia also uses little guilt trips and psychological tricks to make Partridge feel like he owes her. Fused with a doll's head or not, this is something so faultily human about Pressia. Aribelle admits that the fusing cannot be undone. Humanity must live with its past and mistakes.
5. The uncensored thoughts are honest despite the different perspectives, and as scattered as they are. Pressia likes the OSR uniform and the power. She feels a hunger and knows that she can kill. El Capitan is tired and sometimes thinking about killing his brother. He hates how he can tell people look past him and at his burden, fused to his back. He also had hopes and dreams about becoming a pilot. It is something he knows can never happen now. Partridge can't help feeling bothered and defensive when others refer to his father in a negative light. A really good example is when Bradwell talks about how his parents were not able to be sweet-talked through Red Lobster and whatever else they were offered, but apparently Partridge's father was. He hates his father, but he can't help loving him too, despite his faults. Lyda never blames Partridge in her mind once, not even when she feels her most miserable, because she knows she made a choice. She does think he used her, but she feels like she let him. And continues to help him, for that matter.
There was much more that I liked or loved about this book, but I'll just leave it at that. Baggott left off on a pretty mellow note, so I won't be anxious for the sequel, though I suspect I will enjoy it just as much.