One of my favorite things to do, even now…as a 32-year-old mother of two, is sit across from my father at the dining room table and talk about books. My husband is not a reader, my dad…he reads almost as much as I do, so being able to “talk shop” with someone who appreciates the wild world of literary genius as much as I do is a special treat for me. But last Sunday something funny (and by funny I mean weird) happened. Hubs joined the conversation.
A quick fact about David, he is a pessimist. Now, he isn’t as bad as me (I don’t think that’s humanly possible) but get the two of us in a room and flip the TV to CNN and we will bring down the house with our negative commentary. Anyways, David was off in his own little world (that’s code for staring at whatever random blinky light he found in the room) when I decided to tell my dad about the book I was currently reading. “World of shell and Bone.”
“So, Dad…you are not going to believe the premise behind this book I’m reading right now. The world is basically destroyed by nuclear warfare”
*David’s head shoots up*
“and since apparently the men did such a horrible job of keeping everyone safe the first time, cause you know…they basically blew up the world…women are the only ones allowed in charge and the men have been reduced to ignorant (by design) house-husbands who’s only job is to cook, clean and procreate.”
My Dad: “That sounds awesome. I could totally stay home all day and be a man-servant.”
David: “That’s ridiculous. The whole “man thing” not the nuclear warfare thing. Did you know that North Korean has been doing testing on their bomb for over a month now and they have pretty much said that as soon as they are satisfied with the result they are going to take out the US.”
This is the point in the conversation when Dad and I decided “Enders Game” was a safer topic, but it got me thinking…if we were bombed tomorrow, and I was stuck in the same impossible scenario that the citizens of New Amana found themselves in…would I behave as inconsiderately as they do?
And how about you? Would you cage your conscience, your humanity for a 1% chance at a better life? I would like to definitively say I wouldn’t, but if I’m honest with myself…I don’t really know. Circumstances change people. And it’s not always for the better.
But I digress, first…a little about the book.
Now, before I begin my rant on the beautiful prose I found gracing the pages of Adriana Ryan’s trek through the nuclear holocaust, I want to talk about the characters.
I know I sound a bit like a broken record, but I can not express to you how important it is for an author to establish strong, engaging characters. And I’ll be the first to say that if Ryan hadn’t done so in this book, it would have been on the capital side of epic failure. Despite the multitude of sub-plots, this story was ultimately about the people. How they were affected by their circumstances. Their interactions between each other. Their inability to trust, forgive, look past societal outcast and take a stand against injustices. Simply put, if I (as the reader) was unable to emotionally connect to Vika, her husband or even her sister the way I did, all of the actions performed by them would have been meaningless. Luckily, Ryan was able to establish connections through internal dialogue. Though mostly stemmed from guilt or anger, they allowed emotion to bubble to the serface acting as a catalyst for dynamic relationships.
Though not exactly conventional, this one sentence illustrates just exactly how broken Vika’s little sister is. It establishes precedence for Vika’s guilt, rage and motives throughout the remainder or the book.
But…let’s say you are a person that reads for the underlying message. Lofty prose and stylistic commentary is more up your ally.
No prob, Ryan managed to include that too.
“World of Shell and Bone” did have it’s fair share of flaws though too. For instance, the plot was inundated with highs and lows. For three chapters you would be in the thick of things. People were taking a stand, or Vika was unraveling a pocket full of lies, then…nothing. The story would stall while trying to make a point that was (in the end) relatively unnecessary. And even though I thought the ending was rather genius (and a total set up for book two.) there is a very good chance the majority of readers will find fault in it. (Let’s just say the ending was a tad more sedated than one would expect. Also…the last sentence left a lot of things open to interpretation.)
In the end however, all of the positives outweighed the negatives, and while I’m still not sure if my actions would be selfish or selfless (if found in the same situation) I’m somewhat comforted by the fact that others will be. Positive that is.
Highly suggested for those of you that love dystopian or apocalyptic literature.
Happy Reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: you may pretend not to see them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t see you.
Click image for additional details
I am baffled by mirrors.
When I look at my reflection, I see eyes I do not recognize (probably from my father), my mother’s nose, my sister’s mouth. It is my face, but it means nothing to me. The lines and curves of it do not resonate deep within me, do not inspire waves of feeling, either good or bad. I am nothing
more than a collection of genetic puzzle pieces—I understand and accept this fully. I do not think myself beautiful, nor ugly. In any case, such labeling of oneself is against the law.
I dress quickly in my uniform, and tie the scarf around my left arm. It weighs heavily on me today, heavier, perhaps, than it has in a long time. The large red zero on it flaunts my emptiness. I am devoid of an embryo. As of this moment, I am worth very little to my government and my people. But maybe today that will change. Maybe I will finally have the chance to wear the gold scarf with the fruit-laden tree branch. I can almost hear the latch on my cage sliding. I can almost feel the brilliant sunshine kiss my eyelids.
The gray sky is a smothering blanket that settles around me as soon as I step outside. When the fallout is bad, we have to wear masks and stay inside except to go to work. Today I see black spots dotting the air, but it is not bad. I am still breathing, and this, I know, is something to be thankful for.
As I pass the alley beside my building, the Nukehead children watch me. Their eyes are insects that crawl across my neck, my cheek, my ear. Their whispers are fingers trailing through my hair. I keep my gaze on the cracked concrete beneath my boots and my mind on my destination: the bus that will deliver me safely to my fate, my duty.
I hand my plastic voucher to the bus driver. She wears a uniform similar to mine—a shirt and skirt with black rubber boots, but her clothes are a dusty pink rather than olive green. Her hair is wet and hangs in limp raven strands to her shoulders. Although I have seen her almost every day for the past three years, since I was assigned to my job at the Bureau of Transregional Affairs, her eyes run over my voucher, my badge, and then my face. Just in case I have morphed into an imposter version of myself, in case I am crazy enough to want to break into my own life.
As I cross from the bus station to the squat concrete building where I work, it is pouring silver rain. The drops sting my skin as they roll off, and I know I will be mottled red later. I’ve learned there are certain things the human body will never get used to, even if it has been exposed to them since birth. Acid rain is one such thing. Umbrellas have proved useless, the nylon tattering under the caustic solution in mere weeks. With the constant deluge of rainfall, most people don’t bother with them any longer. When an object does not meet its function, it must be discarded. It’s the logical way.
I step into the dank entrance hallway and make for the gloom of the stairs. They will lead me to the office where I work in a hive of desks and chairs with other BoTA employees. The perpetual wetness of the air, even inside, seeps into my skin. My pores drink in every last bit until I imagine I am bloated and swollen, but not in the way I want to be. Not in the way that counts. I leave marble-sized drops of rain behind me as I wind my way to my desk.
Moon leans back in her chair. She raises one green, tattooed-on eyebrow. The government allows accessorizing as long as the colors of the workplace are used. “You look ghastly.”
I sit down, my face burning. “It’s raining,” I answer, though I know this is not what she means.
“You’re due for a Match today, yeah?” She drums her shellacked nails on the tabletop. Her fingers look diseased, painted that shade of green.
“Yes,” I reply. There is no point in denying it. A Match is cause for much gossip. A Match is everyone’s business. Progeny is our only weapon now.
“You know who it is?” Moon asks, her eyes glinting in the tepid morning light.
I frown. “How would I know who it is?” Matches are never revealed in advance. It doesn’t matter anyway, since we don’t fraternize with the Husbands and would have no way of knowing them. I suppose it is another way of reminding us they are nothing more than mediums to our ultimate goal.
“I thought your mother would’ve told you. Clued her only daughter in to her future.” Moon has a way of setting me on edge, no matter what she says or intends to say. I know from experience that they are never the same thing.
“My mother doesn’t do me any favors.” I say this tightly. Perhaps Moon will assume I am offended at her insinuation of bias in the system, but I secretly wish my mother would do me favors. Unfortunately, to her, I am just a feather in our government’s cap—a daughter who will make more healthy children for the future of New Amana. We have no emotional ties, and I am as in the dark as anyone else.
“Vika? Vika Cannon?”
I look up. It is time. The woman in billowing beige pants is waiting, already glancing at her watch although she has only just called my name. I cannot be late for this. I cannot miss my chance.
I stand up.
“Here,” I say.
Here I am. But I wish I wasn’t.