Friday, March 23, 2012

Really, Another Dystopic? Okay, Maybe One More

As everyone knows, The Hunger Games comes to the theaters today (well, technically at 12:01 this morning) and it’s almost all anyone can talk about. I can’t blame the world, I’m right up there with everyone else and right after work I will in line with the masses to partake in this pop-culture phenomenon. As regular readers of Sifting through the Pile know, I have a slight penchant for dystopic stories. Well, maybe more than slight. I tend to devote a lot of blog and recommendation time to this genre, so recently I have made a concerted effort to specifically mention many of the non-genre books I read that are equally as fantastic and close to my heart. Because of this attempt to diversify my review writing I have mistakenly let a really captivating and rather innovative book go by the wayside. So, in honor of The Hunger Games movie release, I am courteously and briefly going to suck readers back into my obsession with post-apocalyptic/dystopic fiction.

Pure by Julianna Baggott has been available for the past couple of months, and thanks to my misguided attempts to diversify, has gone largely unnoticed amongst my readers. Pure is yet another of those post-apocalyptic books where society has been split apart by war (in this book, the Detonations), with some members of the population secluded within a rigidly controlled, sterile environment and others, outside, starving in what remains of a world that no longer really exists. While this is not an unfamiliar premise in the least, what sets apart Pure from the other novels of similar vein is fusing. Those who live on the outside under an autocratic rule, with little food, and much fear are fused; meaning that during the Detonations (nuclear strikes), some were horribly scarred and disfigured, and others became fused with the environment surrounding them. Mothers became fused with their children—children who are never capable of physically growing, forever tied to their mothers arms, one boy has a flock of birds fused to his back, another is forever fused with the desert floor to become a monster of the worst and most frightening proportions, and our heroine, Pressia has a hand fused to a baby doll—its blinking eyes forever attached to what was once a hand. It is only those within the domed autocratic society that are unmaimed, or rather, “pure”. When Partridge, a pure with the highest of lineages, escapes the confines of the domed society in an effort to find the truth of his brother’s suicide and his father’s machinations, he discovers Pressia and her world of survivors. It is there that the two, along with an unlikely band of fused, uncover a plot and connections between Partridge and Pressia that take them all into a danger beyond their wildest imaginings.

What seems at first glance to be an absurd plot with a concept that could easily become cheesy and idiotic, is in actuality a brilliant use of imagination. The fusing is described in such a way that it actually makes sense from a scientific angle (at least for a layperson), and the fuses themselves—whether they are alive, like the children or birds, or inanimate like Pressia’s doll head—are almost characters in themselves, as Baggott makes clever use of them throughout this first book in, what is to be a series. It’s actually amazing how such a seemingly odd, and possibly ruinous plot point ends up “making” the story and when genetic manipulation, paramilitary groups, authoritarianism , and revolution are thrown into the mix, readers can’t help but become engrossed.

I won’t say that if you read one genre book this year, Pure is the one to read—there are too many well-written vehicles out or about to be released, but I will say, that should you choose to partake, Pure is one to give more than a second glance to.

For a bit of entertainment, check out the book trailer below.


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