Saturday, July 30, 2011

Happiness is...a good book. (Summer Reading edition #34)

The Dark and Hollow Places
Author: Carrie Ryan
Pages: 374
Age Range: 13+
Published: 2011
Genre: Sci-fi/dystopia
Cover Score: *** 
Overall Grade: ****
Rating: PG-13 (gruesome violence, some language)

This is the third in a trilogy so whil I will try not to give away any major plot points I can’t guarantee there won’t be spoilers for the first two; The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves.

Annah lives in New York City, 150 or so years after the Return (the infection that causes the dead to rise again and walk the earth hunting for human flesh…yes, zombies!) Society has dwindled to a few pockets of the living struggling to keep barriers between themselves and the Unconsecrated (the zombies) but the numbers are so great that most of them have fallen and the last great stronghold, the Dark City, is on the verge of falling as well. She’s been trying to make ends meet and take care of herself since being abandoned by Elias (her pseudo brother) who joined the Recruiters three years earlier. She’s resentful of him and still harboring guilty feelings for not having done more to help her sister Abigail escape the forest when they were children.

As she’s making her way out of the city though she spots a girl on the bridge, her sister she’s sure of it. And then she meets Catcher. He’s got some secrets and regrets of his own but he knows all about Annah and Elias and Abigail, now known as Gabry. He’s promised to look after Annah but Annah’s not sure she trusts him.

Eventually they find themselves on the Sanctuary, a small island run by the Recruiters and the only place left not overrun by the Unconsecrated. Elias and Gabry are there as well and together the four of them uncover their twisted and intertwining paths and begin to forge new relationships together.

Elias thinks he’s done right by everyone, protecting them by leading them all to the Sanctuary, but the remaining Recruiters are cruel and merciless, torturing the helpless for sport, using anyone they can (Catcher in particular who has an immunity to the virus and can walk undetected among the Unconsecrated) to ferry back and forth between the two worlds to gather food and forcing the Soulers (a fanatic religious group that believes the dead who Return have found the elect resurrection and are somehow pure) to patrol the beaches around the building.

The four must learn to trust each other (Annah in particular who feels abandoned and betrayed by them all) and find a way off of the island and hopefully to a place where they can start again (though the maps and plans show that most of the world is overrun.) Annah is also dealing with her many scars (physical and emotional) that keep her from trusting or allowing herself to be loved.

They are forced to make one major decision after another and answer some life-altering questions: what does it mean to live? Is existence the same as life? Who has it better, those who are aware and continually suffering and in fear or the Undead who eternally exist (until someone chops off their heads) and have no memories, pains or emotions? What would you do if you knew you only had a few days left to live? Which fears are justifiable? When is it okay to give up?

I didn’t find myself as engrossed in this one as I did the other two. I think I got a little bored with Annah’s insecurities. She’s in a struggle for her life and yet she’s constantly worried about her scars (though they are extensive) and if the men in her life will find her attractive. I’m not sure how realistic that would be. Sure she’d want to be desirable, she’s human after all, but she spent a lot of time dwelling on it, and dwelling on it, and dwelling on it. But it was still a thrilling and basically non-stop ride. And it’s a satisfying conclusion to the series; questions are answered and characters are tied together and there’s a bit of hope though not a truly happy ending (true to the incredible and comprehensive world built by Ms. Ryan.)

Full of gore and violence and decapitations it’s also a story of love and forgiveness. There is proof that even in the most horrid of conditions and potential futures one can still make choices and many choose to cling to humanity and kindness. If you’re a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, dystopias, or zombies or are looking for something a little different, give it a look-see. I think you’ll like it!

No comments:

Post a Comment