Review: Light by Michael Grant

Standard

 

Light

Light

Light is the final book in Grant’s series, which I’ve reviewed as I’ve been reading them. Despite a dip in the middle, I think this final book was superb – the characters all came together, action was fast paced and exciting, and it was a good ending to the series.

Starting the novel with the statement that “the best bit about any story is its ending” smacks a little of arrogance – and certainly sets himself a high target to achieve! I wouldn’t say this is necessarily the best of the books, but it is a fitting ending. Each of the characters comes to an appropriate ending, which is always a difficult task to pull off.

Using a mixture of inside and outside the Fayz adds an extra dimension to this – the fact that the bubble surrounding the Fayz has now become transparent brings an added horror, making us see the adults’ response to what their children have done – without any actual understanding of how horrific it has been inside the Fayz – and the children inside who now can see their parents but, in what is actually one of the most tragic scenes in the book, can’t touch or communicate with them, just sitting to see them instead. With the gaiaphage growing up and ready to move on, the final showdown finally will be the endgame. Characters we’ve seen since the beginning are called on and continue to develop, having to either prove themselves or turn away from everyone else. There’s plenty of the violence and action that has characterised these books.

There were a few things I found unsatisfactory – the connection of Little Pete, the gaiaphage and video games was never quite fully explained. The gaiaphage’s origins are dealt with in a brief way that seems to suggest that’s all we need to know, without really exploring anything further. It feels a little like we’re being told simply to accept something without it being proven. The very ending is a little rushed at times, again glossing over details which wouldn’t hold up to closer scrutiny.

Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable series that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend, especially to older teens.

 

4/5

Review: Fear (Michael Grant)

Standard
Fear

Fear

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!

5/5

Review: Gone by Michael Grant

Gone
Standard
Gone

Gone

The short opening chapter of Goneis great – sitting in class, Sam’s staring out of the window dreaming about surfing rather than paying attention. Then, without warning, the teacher vanishes. Along with every other adult and child over the age of 15 in their town.

It’s a gripping, bold start, which I loved. Major characters are introduced very early on and while they are pretty stereotypical, there’s a few more unusual ones to keep things fresh. The children left, all under 14, at first are completely bewildered – torn between mourning their parents and enjoying the sudden all-you-can-eat candy or the ability to stay up all night playing Xbox with nobody telling them what to do.

Michael Grant’s prose style is fairly plain – quite typical of YA fiction which, actually, I find a bit of a shame! One of the major things I often notice about teenagers is that their vocabulary is less advanced than I would expect. While there’s some things we can do about that, there really is no better way to improve your vocabulary than reading (learning lists of words just isn’t the same!) and when teenagers just read YA fiction like this, they’re not going to be expanding their vocab which is a shame. Someone like John Green, however, has a much broader range.

Anyway. What his style does do is make it incredibly easy to race through these novels which, at 556 pages, are not insubstantial! The Lord of the Fliesis 320 – and that’s the novel to compare this too, on all counts. Cover of "Lord of the Flies"It is the Lord oft he Flies set in the modern era; children isolated from parents, split into two camps – Jack and Ralph in Golding’s novel, with the town kids in Gone coming up against the kids from Coates Academy, a boarding school for ‘troubled’ (read: violent and psychotic) rich kids. Anyone who’s read The Lord of the Flies at school, and in my opinion it improves on study, will recognise the parallels but Grant’s gone further in this novel by giving some of the kids mutated superpowers – they can shoot light from their hands, suspend gravity, move really fast – all sorts.

Sam, played by Ralph, is just trying to get on with things. He’s helped by Quinn, his best friend who’s having a hard time realising his friend has developed the power of shooting light from his hands, and Astrid, who’s pushing Sam to take control of the town for everybody’s sake. Then we’ve got the Coates Kids lef by Caine, who’s a little bit crazy and wants control, Drake who’s a raging psychopath, and Diana, who’s a sociopath along for the ride.

Grant also goes much further in the violence he’s willing to show on the page. Golding gets pretty brutal at times with his deaths but he also tempers it by shying away from showing every one – the ones that are shown are shocking as a result. Grant here imagines a world of children quickly turned feral, and turning on each other. Contrary to some Amazon reviews I did find the descriptions of violence quite graphic (and they worsen in later books in the series): it’s incredibly disturbing at times. There’s also inevitable comparisons with the Hunger Games; while I found Katniss and Gale far more compelling characters than many in this book, the raw visceral nature of this was more than enough to pull me along into the series.

5/5

Ways to Live Forever: Sally Nicholls

Standard


Sam is a 12 year old boy with leukemia. He starts writing at home, because he’s too ill to attend school, and starts making lists of questions he wants answered, and of things he wants to do before he dies. He writes in a very honest and open way about his fears, hopes and worries about dying, and what the rest of his family are experiencing. At the same time, though, there’s a depth to it because Sam doesn’t explicitly describe a lot – he ignores his parents’ relationship, his sister’s emotional difficulties and other things he alludes to but doesn’t want to go into detail about because it would mean getting too close to the fact that he is going to die.

There’s no arguing with that. Nicholls makes it clear from the beginning that this is the last stage of Sam’s illness; chemotherapy has stopped and he’s taking something experimental to prolong the rest of his life. The book itself is both funny and sad. She walks a fine line well, making Sam a genuinely likable character who you get to really feel for. It’s a terrible thing, in a way, because there’s the inevitability about this character but you keep hoping for the miracle.

I think it’s important that authors write things like this for children. Novels like this are a great way to introduce children – and adults! – to quite scary, difficult topics. I wouldn’t give this to a young child, but to a teenager who’s starting to come to terms with these ideas, it’d be something very thought provoking.

Ways To Live Forever – buy on Amazon