With regards the reviews I write, I feel it is necessary to provide this caveat.
The initial section right up to the button that opens the full synopsis is the teaser where I try to give a look into the book without revealing too much.

The section within the button is a full synopsis. No detail will be hidden at all.

Be warned!
The final section (Food for thought) is a series of thoughts on the book. This is a personal take on the book and does mention important parts of the books. It should be considered as much of a spoiler as the previous section!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Book Review: Gone by Michael Grant - 4thwallfly

Welcome to the Fly on the 4th Wall, this week's book is a young adult fiction book. Not entirely sure if it counts as science fiction but there's mention of powers and stranger things on the blurb at the back, so it's probably that new genre of urban fantasy (modern-day city-set fantasy). This week's book is:
Gone by Michael Grant
(Not literally Gone, it's just called that).
Cover art copyright of M-80 Design / Wes Youssi (2014)

'In the blink of an eye.
Everyone disappears.

Everyone except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not a single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Gone, too, are the phones, internet, and television. There is no way to get help. 

Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents - unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers - that grow stronger by the day. 

It's a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen and war is imminent.' Gone, Michael Grant [2008]

Gone is set more or less in the modern era, and follows the story of Sam (and a few others), a young man who (unusually for these sorts of books) doesn't wake up to discover the world is changed, but has it changed right before his eyes as every single adult disappears without warning. Like Lord of the Flies, this book is about the survival of children in a world without guidance (and like Lord of the Flies, is a book that highlights that children do not have an innate level of innocence about them at the end of the day). You can't help but wonder which of the characters will most resemble Piggy.

Gone is the first book of a series by the same name.

Click below for the full synopsis (click to open/close):

Food for thought

Gone reads extremely similarly to Lord of the Flies by William Golding, the theme being a story about how children attempt to survive in a world suddenly bereft of parents. The story has a twist on the usual coming-of-age story as these children are forced suddenly to stop being children and start being adults without any of the guidance that would normally come. Worse, in addition to the usual tensions and the extra tensions thrust upon them, they have to deal with the fact that their very world and selves are changing too.

The book also is surprising for a young adult fiction. Most young adult books treat their settings as 'safe' places. People don't usually die (at all) and more often than not violence is something that happens without the intensity of more mature thrillers. Gone delivers a darker, edgier world than the usual young adult fiction which gives a pleasant surprise. It does however, like Lord of the Flies, make a point that children are not innately innocent. It is a common belief that children are born innocent, but Gone is a book that aims to show that children, just like adults are capable of both great heroism and great cruelty. The cynic in me loves that because I find I agree with the sentiment. In schools there are always 'bullies,' little despots of little worlds. But in a world where suddenly there are no consequences then it seems reasonable to assume that bullies would go on to become cruel tyrants.

Sustainability is also a problem. Here is a world run by children who start their new world with little realistic understanding of the economy they have inherited. Through the story there comes an understanding that food supplies cannot last, but at no point does anyone suggest trying to determine whether they can make a sustainable living within the FAYZ, suggesting that they may simply be too myopic to really realise the importance of that. In a dire situation, hope is a powerful tool, providing the strength to keep going, but it should always be tempered with practicality. Plan for the worst, hope for the best is the motto I have in mind here. Though there is a question of whether it is fair to expect children to plan ahead so far, to entirely give up on the hope that their authority figures will rescue them (which is a very powerful thing for young adults in bad situations). There's a potential comment here though about the sustainability of our own ecosystem. It's pretty clear in the closed world of the Fallout Alley Youth Zone that sustainability isn't feasible. Resources are being consumed (literally) and not being produced and the book holds a mirror to our own world. Just because our world is large and visually infinite does not mean that it has infinite resources or can support infinite demand.

On a final note, as is common with many young adult books, the villain is given a name of significance, taking the name Caine after Cain (from the bible story of Cain and Abel). Much like the bible story, Caine is all set to kill his brother over jealousy and anger and indeed his punishment (though he fails where Cain succeeded), is to wander the Earth like his namesake in the Hebrew text. Caine's rather callous intelligence and charismatic leadership is also linked to Cain who is described as a city-builder. 

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