Monday, December 26, 2011

Sequeltown III: The Revenge

Don't think I was done.  I'm hardly reading anything these days that doesn't come from a proven author with a proven set of characters, world, and pre-approved plotlines.  Keeps things streamlined.

I liked-but-didn't-love Ally Condie's Matched, but was interested enough to keep rolling with the next one, Crossed.  It's coming at the Perfect Society Dystopia from the other side; while the first book took place in the happy, locked-down part of the world, this one takes place on the fringes, on the run.  In spite of that, it has a very similar feel to the first book, and I have a very similar reaction to it.

I think this series may have suffered from overhype.  That's a real risk, especially when you're an adult reading YA.  Because the main audience for these books is young, you have a fresh set of folks reading their first dystopian fiction and being blown away by it.  Books are wildly popular because most readers are coming at everything with fresh eyes.  Even reviewers in this genre are often librarians, teachers, and people who service young adults and who (appropriately) look at the work through that audience's eyes.

Crossed shares some of what I'd consider the weaknesses of Matched, especially the reliance on true, deep, enormous teen love as the main driving force, and the seamless monolith of the Society's machinations.  The former is usually my biggest pet peeve, but is almost tolerable here; I can really get behind the romance being mostly a way for the characters to pursue something (freedom) that they wouldn't know how to reach for or even really define on its own.  So I'll give it a pass.

But the absolute tight control that the Society has--every piece of information monitored, every piece of paper accounted for, every ounce of food measured and accounted for--seems entirely impossible to me.  I think that's a very adult perspective on my part; over the years I've become aware of how almost everything that looks structurally flawless is fraying just out of frame.  Still, I'm finding it to be a weakness, if only because I never know what to expect from the Society--the omnipotence they seem to have in the story, or a more realistic veneer of omnipotence.

As flaws go, these are in no way deal-breakers, though.  I like how little information everyone has, how hard Cassia finds her decisions (though her unflinching willingness to rush toward death is kind of startling), how conflicted Ky is.  I really like the secondary characters, who really feel like full characters we've just met, with back stories and blind spots and everything.  There are types here, but they're all their own.

My other current situation is The Broken Kingdoms, sequel to N.K. Jemisen's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.  I only just started it, so it almost doesn't count for a blog post, but I really liked the first one, and I'm pretty excited about it.  The world-building was incredible; the incredibly complex problem of gods living side by side with people was deftly handled.  I've barely begun this one, but as a follow-up--with new characters and set a while later--it's already very promising.

I think that's it from Sequeltown for now.  But hey, maybe I'll come out with another trilogy 25 years from now.  They'll probably be pretty mediocre, though.  This is probably my masterpiece.

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