Sunday, February 16, 2014

Confusing and Confuzzled

It is hard to imagine a world where fresh water is not only in short supply, it is almost completely gone, save for one tightly controlled aquifer. In Jonathan Friesen's dystopia, the world will do anything to get the fresh water it needs to stay alive.

Luca knows his fate will eventually make him an Other. As the only son of the Deliverer, he will one day have to take over for his father and travel underground to barter for water from the aquifer. His father doesn't tell him anything about what lies underground, but the rumors of the Rat men are enough to terrify him. While he is a "normal" kid now, once he descends, the community will always think of him as an other: necessary to bring them water, but still disconnected from their own lives. He doesn't look forward to that day, but he knows he must accept his lot in life.

When his father goes missing, supposed to be Undone, Luca's entire life falls apart. He knows his father hid books in their house, and Luca's own desire for the books he can't even read is just as dangerous. But the Amongus aren't just concerned with a boy who has found contraband books. They want the aquifer. Despite generations of negotiations between the Rat men and the Deliverers, they are determined to find the path to the Aquifer even though the knowledge of the journey is only passed from one Deliverer to his replacement. And you should never underestimate people who have nothing left to lose.

First, I must admit I finally gave up on this story and put it away after weeks of trying to finish it. I read over 200 pages of a 300 paged book and just couldn't go on any longer. It's not that the story itself was uninteresting, its just that the characters weren't terribly likable and the story was so confusing with tons of different elements that I just couldn't invest in it. For instance, on the surface, there is a whole layer of the Council installing these meter-type things that calculate how much emotion a person is exerting. If you are too emotional, you could be undone. This whole element is confusing and intricate, but by the time Luca goes underground, it is also completely unnecessary. So why include it? Add to that all the different people who have different, hidden identities. Then the "secret" of what is underground. Finally, ask yourself why no one tried to get to the aquifer without the Deliverer before now. I mean, really? Generations go by and no one thought to follow him or blast the crap out of the mountain to get at it? Then there are the books. This whole description about why books aren't allowed, but it really didn't matter to the story. All these different elements leave the reader confused and uninterested (at least it did to me).

Most importantly, I never cared about Luca. Sure, I felt for the guy occasionally, but he was just not the type of main character I could get behind. In truth, he was uninteresting and flat. Even his interactions with other characters like Seward and Wren fell flat for me. And finally, when he was underground, I thought to myself, "Oh why don't you just drown yourself in the bloody aquifer you ineffectual, personality-less toad!" I got so annoyed with Luca that nothing else in the story really mattered to me. So, I gave up. The story had potential, but it was too bogged down by extraneous elements to really come together and the main character was too wishy washy to get behind. I simply couldn't go on any longer!

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