Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Book: Dystopia by Janet McNulty

Book 1 of the Dystopia Trilogy.

I was given a copy of Dystopia by the author in exchange for my honest review.

Dana lives in the society of Dystopia (the US after a series of disasters), where everything is controlled by the state, what you eat, what you wear, what job you do, and you are required to request permits to live together or have children. At 17, same as all teenagers, Dana is assigned her career, but having asked questions deemed unsympathetic to the regime, and having led an illegal fry up, Dana is deemed problematic and sent to work in Waste Management, where the lifespan is short and the conditions demoralising. When she asks one question too many, she comes to the attention of the people in charge, there she is forced to join the resistance in order to betray it, an idea that she isn't particularly comfortable with, and struggles to come to terms with. After listening to advice from Nana, a terminally ill woman living on the Waste Management site, Dana has to come to a decision, leading to the climax of the novel.

How refreshing! A dystopia with absolutely no romance! It wasn't even really present with minor characters. This is definitely more reminiscent of the more 'classic' dystopias (though they are longer and do tend to have an element of romance in them) than of the 'modern' young adult dystopias that are so popular today. Though there was no romance, I didn't feel that the story was lacking in anything come the end, it was a full and complete story, which somewhat goes to show that you can have a female teen protagonist and she can be strong and independent without the help of one (or two) male characters.

I liked Dana as a character, she didn't grow to dislike the society and to see the truth about it, she already knew and accepted the issues at the beginning of the novel. Dystopia wasn't the classic 'join the resistance' type dystopia, it went deeper than that. McNulty almost took 1984 a step further, and instead of just breaking her character at the end, used her character to commit the betrayal. The one thing I would say about Dana is that I wasn't convinced of her as a 17 year old. Her mentality about just about everything seemed far more mature than most 17 year old girls, even taking into account that she lives in a tough world. Saying that, her age is of very little importance after the beginning and the explanation that careers are chosen at 17.

However, there were a couple of instances where I found myself thinking 'how did that character do that?' or 'how did that character know that?'. There were certainly a few occasions where characters seemed to know a little bit too much (Dana performed a move on a specific part of the throat to stop someone talking at one point), and though it did seem a bit incredulous, it in no way ruined the story! After all it is a work of fiction and there are some elements that can just happen!

The dystopia itself was clearly well developed. Throughout the novel McNulty expands on how the regime works and how it came to be. This is particularly done through the different characters that are followed. The society is clearly far into its dystopian state, especially as it is mentioned that things changed gradually. But I could not get my head round why the dystopia was called Dystopia, surely by naming it that the citizens would automatically know that it is a dystopia? Again this isn't really a major issue, just something I found myself questioning.

Something I really struggled to figure out was Chapter 2. After reading the first chapter about Dana, the second chapter starts with;
By now, dear reader, you are probably wondering about the world in which Dana lives.
Well yes, I am wondering about the world in which Dana lives, however this seemed to be a strange way for the author to decide to tell me. In my opinion (which may not be correct!) there are two ways the author could have made this interlude work, the first would be as a prologue, as the content was good and enjoyable to read, it was just in a strange place. Or have every other chapter background on the dystopia, which could understandably make the text heavier going. As I mentioned, what is contained in the chapter is relevant and interesting, and helps set the scene for the story, I was just left slightly confused as to why it was where it was.

Overall I found Dystopia to be a good read, I found that the world McNulty created was fascinating, and her protagonist, Dana, was refreshing as a female teenager who didn't need a boy to move along her storyline. I also found it easy to see how the 'classic' dystopias have influenced McNulty in her creation of Dystopia, and how she has taken the concepts for them and used them in her own, unique way. This dystopia is worth a read, especially if you're growing tired of the love based dystopias that are so popular today.