Despite a slight disappointment in Plague, the fourth book in this series, I read Fear straight after it – and Grant definitely got his writing mojo back!!
The FAYZ is still as deadly as ever, but this book focuses on the way the FAYZ is changing rather than the people in it. Nobody’s developing new powers except the gaiaphage, the creature that seems to have been taking advantage of the FAYZ to grow, take over and destroy. There’s an uneasy sense of peace between Perdido Beach and the lake, and the changing relationship between Sam and Caine is fascinating – they’re forced to work together and collaborate but how can they ever trust one another? There’s also some great moments for other characters such as Quinn, who started the series with potential but was left alone for quite a while in the other books.
Things that annoyed me in Plague have also changed – Astrid has grown up and learned to get on with the business of survival, whatever the cost. There’s less of the irritating phrases, too. Sadly there has crept in some of the ‘Astrid was always known as a genius’ phrasing which tends to arrive after three or four books, when a writer seems to think they need to add in helpful backstory to anyone lazy enough not to have read the first three!! Still, Grant doesn’t belabour it too much, so I can forgive him that, I guess 🙂
This book sees the FAYZ gradually going dark as the barrier between it and the outside world turns black instead of the reflection it’s been so far – and Grant starts the book in quite a surprising way – by giving us Connie Temple’s reaction to the FAYZ. Connie’s from outside the barrier, Sam and Caine’s mother, and the first voice we’ve heard from outside. It’s a brave move at this point in the game to change the dynamic so significantly, but it feels right to do it at this moment and certainly builds up the tension and conflict heading for the moment when the two must – surely – come together.
Online there’s all sorts of rumours, from the past couple of years by the look of it, about adapting this series into a film or tv show. I’m not convinced it would translate well, and I think it would be tricky for anyone trying. As YA novel, this is really being aimed at 14+, I would imagine. There is some incredible violence – whipping people to death, cutting them apart, cannibalism etc – (although ironically, and leaving me in a constant state of despair over priorities, the sex is remarkably tame and discreet). It is, however, an integral part of the series and demonstrates the violence that children (people generally) are capable of, and the way that society can disintegrate so completely. Again, it’s the Lord of the Flies only this time it’s lost its public school veneer of civilisation that Ralph tried so hard to create (I really hope at the end of Light, some army officer comes up to Sam and tries to tell him the modern American equivalent of ‘jolly good show’). Without that violence, it loses a lot of what it’s about, thematically, yet I think that violence would render it an 18, looking at the rating of The Walking Dead, for example, which strikes me as a similar level. An interesting dilemma for anyone who tries to take it on. It also raises the perennial question of age ratings on books, something I am firmly against, but I do have some sympathy for parents who are trying to protect their children and feel like they’re struggling.
A very strong book, racing through – definitely a series when you should have all the books to dive into the next one as you close the cover!