Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Book: Anomaly by Krista McGee

I received an ARC of Anomaly from netgalley in exchange for my review.

Thalli is a member of Pod C, the third generation to be created by the Ten, scientists who survived the end of the world cause by nuclear bombs. Thalli is the Pod's musician, and her best friends Rhen, the Pod's logical thinker, and Berk, that generations scientist in training, are other members of the Pod. At 9 years old her friend Asta is removed for annihilation after a 'malfunction' of her perfect health. This sends Thalli into a spiral of questions and doubt about the State that she is living in. Once removed herself, Thalli is reunited with Berk, and meets John, a priest from before the apocalypse, he teaches her about God and the theology behind Christianity, and Thalli then begins to think for herself.

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Link to amazon

I absolutely loved this book, I couldn't put it down at all! I'd read some reviews that weren't entirely favourable so wasn't really too sure what to expect, but I have to say that I am glad I ignored them and read the book open mindedly (making up words now apparently!)

There are regular mentions of God and Christianity, though I didn't find them overwhelming, and they were in part necessary for the development of Thalli (and later Berk) as characters. I certainly had no sense of being preached to, or being made to feel uncomfortable by the mentions of religion, as some people have reported.  Religion tends to be something that is overlooked in dystopian, speculative and apocalyptic fiction, and yet it is something that drives a lot of people in the world, has a lot of power, and is a fundamental part of life. After all everybody believes in something! Though it is worth mentioning, I didn't feel that religion was the main focus of Anomaly, but it wasn't out of place either!

Thalli questioned the State that she was living in from the very beginning, there was no slowly becoming disenchanted, she knew she was different and yet she still wanted to live, she wanted to protect the people she loved, though she didn't realise that she loved them until later in the story, and she grew more in confidence and in inner strength throughout her stay in the labs.

One of the main focuses of the story would be love, as is common for most young-adult dystopian fiction, though I have come out of this book with a sense of having read something different and refreshing. There was a sort of love triangle, between Thalli and her old friend Berk, and then Thalli and new boy, Stone. Thalli and Berk were obviously foreshadowed as being together, even as early as their 12 year old selves being shown, and then when they became older (they are both 17 for the majority of the narrative) they have to 'learn' to be in love. This is something that most dystopias where love is banned seem to lack, the sense that how would the characters know how to kiss, or how to show emotion in anyway. Strangely I hadn't actually realised that this was the case until I read Thalli and Berk's journey.

The other member of the (brief) love triangle was also part of the big twist in the plot, which I had my suspicions about (and is partly why I am so unbothered by the brief presence of a love triangle). I thought that it was a good and realistic twist based on the characterisation of the older scientists and the technology that is described as being around at this time and a part of the underground State, also it was good to see how Thalli was processing things. Another interesting thing about the love triangle was the guilt that Thalli felt, particularly around Stone, in relation to Berk. In a lot of cases the girl doesn't seem all that bothered with sharing her attentions, but Thalli did, and she did so without even having to kiss either of them!

Another major theme of the book would be music and the way that it 'speaks' to you. Now I'm not sure about anyone else, but when listening (and yes when playing - I play the flute - as well) I do tend to be transported to a different world, particularly if I am concentrating on the composition and the orchestration. This concept was captured perfectly by McGee. Whenever Thalli was getting lost in the music (which was a lot!) I really believed that that was what she was seeing, the descriptions were vivid and the emotions raw, particularly in relation to Thalli's compositions, though also for the Bach piece that is mentioned. I found that the intertwining of the music and science was interesting, and clearly thought out to the point that I could almost believe that it is 100% real science!

When I started reading Anomaly I couldn't help but note down the echos of Orwellian literature, such as the panels in the wall, the strict regimented life, lack of personal relationships, people being dragged off for being different and mysterious leaders, but as I read I saw that McGee had taken these concepts and applied them in her own way to her own story, in a way that I certainly thought worked!

In addition the ending took me really by surprise! I'd say give this book a read, there's some religion in it, but certainly not enough to put me off!