Friday, 5 July 2013

Book: The Torturer's Daughter by Zoe Cannon

Book 1 of the Internal Defense series.

I received a copy of The Torturer's Daughter from the author after making a request on Goodreads, in exchange for my review.

Becca is the daughter of Raleigh Dalcourt, a name that will strike fear into the hearts of dissidents nationwide. So when Becca gets a late night call from her friend, Heather, saying that she's at 117, Becca knows that it can't be good. But going to 117 to save Heather leads to a journey of discovery for Becca, where she starts to question the methods and theology of, not just Internal Defense, but of her own mother. Along the way she meets Jake, a released dissident in her class, and their friendship grows, along with Becca's differing ideology. But in a world where even saying things were better before is counted as dissidence, can she stay safe and keep her ideas hidden? Can she hide them from her own mother?
Link to amazon
Link to Goodreads

I was so excited to receive a copy of this book, it is one of those that I have wanted to read since I read the blurb (which was before I discovered the read and review on Goodreads). I have to say that I am just as excited now that I have finished the book, it certainly met my expectations, and about my discovery that there is to be a sequel next month!

The dystopian element of this novel seemed very focused on Internal Defense, there was no real exploration of who was actually in charge, or how the regime came to be, but I found that it really didn't matter. In fact I could see the influence of George Orwell's 1984 in the way that the society was run, with children being encouraged to turn in people in positions of authority and other citizens watching people. At the same time though it didn't seem like a rip off of 1984, Cannon clearly made it her own.

Internal Defense is who upholds the society, they drag people off in the middle of the night and gain confessions out of them, in some cases through torture. What I liked about the way that this was done was that you didn't actually see any torture it was only alluded to for most of the book that that was what Becca's mother did, and even when it was fully revealed there was no description of torture. In fact there were only two scenes that involved any violence at all, and they were fairly short. I thought that the way that this was handled was effective because it kept the mystery going, the reader also didn't know what was going on in 117, so when a character was in there you could really feel the tension.

As a protagonist I loved Becca. You get a lot of teenage girl protagonists nowadays, particularly in this genre, and yet Becca felt different, she actually thought things through, and her decisions seemed to be backed up. Also with her ideas about society, particularly those counter society, her thoughts about Jake, and about her mother, all change and develop in a way that a normal teenage girl's would. She didn't fall instantly in love, she didn't always not get on with her mother, or get on with her mother, or her best friend for that matter, and she really struggles with her thoughts on society. The one thing I would say about the narration is that I think it would have flowed better as a first person narrative, especially as by using the limited third person, you only followed Becca, and had access to her thoughts anyway.

As mentioned above, I loved the way that Becca's relationships worked, particularly the relationship with her mother that culminated in a very difficult decision, speaking as someone who was a teenage girl living with her Mum (and is now a 21 year old living with her Mum before term starts), the relationship is real, no one gets on with their Mum all the time, or hates/argues with their Mum all the time, so Becca's situation was incredibly relatable, and her decision at the climax was the decision I would have made too (I think!).

Similarly the relationship with Jake seemed really real. Becca describes herself as someone that boys aren't normally interested in (again, I can relate to that!), which is similar to a lot of heroines in this genre, but unlike most of them, she doesn't fall in love straight away, or after a few awkward encounters (in fact its debatable whether Becca falls in love at all), and at the climax she reacts accordingly. So there was an undercurrent of romance in the book, but it was minuscule, and I would say if you were looking for a dystopian read without romance (which I know is hard to find!) then you're pretty safe with this one if  you can cope with a tiny bit!

I'd recommend this, for a society that doesn't actually exist, I found the whole book relatable, the characters, the events, everything! Its a fantastic read and I can't wait for the second installment, Necessary Sacrafices, to come out next month!