October 22, 2011

2011 Cybils: WITHER, by Lauren De Stefano

Oh, science, you have SO screwed up.
Dystopian fiction is always so amusing to me, because In The Future, science has become so very important -- and it sort of controls and compels the characters in the novel. In this case, it's All Out Of Control. And I mean, ALL out of control. What was meant to be a brilliant scientific coup is responsible for a race made up of the very old -- and the very young. And somehow, what science hath wroth, science can't make go away...

I had a few questions about this one - mainly, I'm confused as to how only North America has survived the world wars, and I want to know more about the science behind the "Yay, we eradicated all diseases!" vs. the "Oops" that occurred next; there must have been some scientists who knew and protested, and were silenced, or something. Scientific theorists are never as homogeneous as all agreeing on one way to do anything. Some interesting underlying premises to this novel.

Reader Gut Reaction: This book actually made me queasy at times - not because of any blood and gore, necessarily - although people coughing and spraying blood Is Not Cool - but because of the emotional aspects of the plot. People in a gilded cage are still imprisoned... and because of the gilding, it's harder than it should be to pull themselves together and get out.

Human nature is by nature deranged; Stockholme Syndrome happens, when we identify and love our captors... and when the only thing they're doing is stopping us from going out the door, isn't it okay to love them? A little, maybe?

The pacing is dreamy and measured, and even as Horrific Things Are Going Down, and people are being carted off to Parts Unknown, there's a sort of distance to the prose that at times made me reeeeeeallly twitchy. A sweetly treacly day in and day out for three girls in a beautiful home, waiting on by servants, reading what they want, playing games and swimming -- and they only have to do one little thing: bear children, and live out their brief lives in the scented, gilded hell.

This is pretty close to being a horror story for me. ::shudder::

Concerning Character: Rhine Ellery was kidnapped to be a bride - because childbearing needs to start as early as possible, in a world where one's lifespan is limited. Captured by the Gatherers and taken from her twin brother, Rhine tries not to stand out -- but she already does, and through no real doing of her own, her husband, Linden, is infatuated with her. He's oddly childlike, and cannot conceive of why she'd want to live anywhere else... His father, on the other hand, knows very well the reasons why Rhine would desperately like to leave.

Rhine's sister-wives are definitely different - one older, taken from her sisters, and too close to her final year to care anymore, and one so much younger that she only ones to have all the attention, love, money, food, and clothing piled on her that she can get, because before now, she's had nothing.

Only Rhine seems to understand with any clarity that they're all slaves to one man's ambition - and even her understanding is fuzzy. Without her sister-wives to support her, will she be able to remember that the objective of every prisoner is to escape?

Recommended for Fans Of...: Post-apocalyptic fiction, like Julie Bertenga's Exodus, Veronica Roth's Divergent, or Ally Condie's Matched.

Cover Chatter: It's dark, which underscores a bit of the opulent-yet-old-fashioned Gothic feel. The cover model's lips are pale, her hair is wild, and her feverish cheeks speak of illness. She's ripping her floofy skirt in a desultory fashion. The bird in the cage is just a silent exclamation point on the whole Help, I'm Trapped Here theme. Claustrophobic and disturbing, the cover does the job it came to do.

You can find WITHER: Book 1 of the Chemical Garden Series at an independent bookstore near you!


Charlotte said...

I tried really hard to like this one, but couldn't. Never ended up caring about the characters. Not sure why.

tanita✿davis said...

I can't say I exactly liked it - there was so much distance with the narrator - as if she was drugged by privilege and silence of the place she found herself -- all of them were like that. If my sisters had been shot to death and deemed unworthy or unnecessary -- oh. my. gosh. They would have had to kill me, too. Srsly. They were all way too calm. Even if I'd decided to live, I think I'd be a lot more scheming and violent, in her place.

Sarah Stevenson said...

Jeez, it sounds creepy and disturbing, a bit...