Associate Links: Amazon/IndieBound
- Why I picked it up: Dystopia, gender issues
- Disclosure: Library (no compensation from author or publisher)
2097 is a transformed world. Thirty years earlier, a mysterious plague wiped out 97 percent of the male population, devastating every world system from governments to sports teams, and causing both universal and unimaginable grief. In the face of such massive despair, women were forced to take over control of the planet--and in doing so they eliminated all of Earth's most pressing issues. Poverty, crime, warfare, hunger . . . all gone.What is it with books disappointing me lately? Maybe I'm letting my expectations get too high. But seriously. Is it too much to ask that when an author ends up with a concept like this, they don't mess it up? O_o Fighting words, I know. And it sounds like this author actually makes a living from his writing, which ALWAYS impresses me. Clearly he's got a work ethic.
But there's a price to pay for this new "utopia," which fourteen-year-old Kellen is all too familiar with. Every day, he deals with life as part of a tiny minority that is purposefully kept subservient and small in numbers. His career choices and relationship options are severely limited and controlled. He also lives under the threat of scattered recurrences of the plague, which seem to pop up wherever small pockets of men begin to regroup and grow in numbers.
And then one day, his mother's boss, an iconic political figure, shows up at his home. Kellen overhears something he shouldn't--another outbreak seems to be headed for Afterlight, the rural community where his father and a small group of men live separately from the female-dominated society. Along with a few other suspicious events, like the mysterious disappearances of Kellen's progressive teacher and his Aunt Paige, Kellen is starting to wonder whether the plague recurrences are even accidental. No matter what the truth is, Kellen cares only about one thing--he has to save his father.
And yet. Considering the amount of positive reviews I'd read for this book, the writing was shockingly clumsy. There were vast amounts of cliches, you could see "the big twist" coming from miles away, and the gender roles were handled with all the sensitivity of a stampeding elephant. It's possible I was spoiled by The Handmaid's Tale, but come on. This was no dystopia. In fact, there didn't seem to be anything different from our everyday world. Yes, we were told 97% of the males were dead, but you wouldn't have known it from the characters.
First off, I don't think a primarily female society would be a utopia. Trust me, I am a girl. I have two sisters, as well as best friends that pretty much count as my sisters. We are all mature, wonderful, lovely human beings, I think, but trying to make us work together is like herding cats. Yes, perhaps we would have less global warming, etc., but we'd still be messed up as a species. So when everything was so perfect, I had a problem. And the whole junkyarddog.bites bloggy thing? I wasn't buying that. That's not how real people blog. The worst offender by far, though, was the fake epitaph thing at the beginning of every chapter. There wasn't a single one that I felt added anything at all to the story. All they added was a mega cheese factor, and there is very little I hate more than gratuitous cheese. Avatar, of course you are exempt from the no-cheese rule, because Pandora rocked. I wanted to live there. But this book had no amazing setting to compensate. (Of course stuff like Doctor Who and Buffy the Vampire Slayer is exempt too, because there the cheese is intentional.)
Going back to The Handmaid's Tale, I really think that the only way to truly tell a gender roles story that's not about little kids (if anyone could actually pull off a gender roles story about little kids I'd like to read it) is to bring sex into it. Just putting that out there right now. While certainly delving into *crimes against women* a fair bit, this book didn't cover that. I'm sorry, but a fourteen-year-old guy as your MC and you don't cover that??? Fourteen-year-old guys are second only to fifteen and sixteen and seventeen-year-old guys as far as that stuff goes. I'm just not seeing it. I also highly doubt that women would be willing to swear off heterosexual relationships. Sorry, but this kind of played into the stereotype that women have no innate sexuality, and that bothered me.
I just realized that I have not said a single positive thing about this book this entire review. That's because there really wasn't that much good to say. There were a few things I enjoyed, concept-wise, but writing wise I despised it. It seems more like a career move cashing in on dystopia than anything else. Whether that's what's in the author's mind or not, I just wish that he had done a better job with this fantastic idea.
The Final Verdict: Intriguing concept, but the book's not worth your time unless you are a truly hardcore dystopia fan that can't pass it up. Sloppy writing and poor character development make for a story that's no fun to spend time with. Two out of five stars.