Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Other Side of The Island

Goodman, Allegra. 2008. The Other Side of the Island.

First paragraph chapter one: All this happened many years ago, before the streets were air-conditioned. Children played outside then, and in many places the sky was naturally blue. A girl moved to a town house in the Colonies on Island 365 in the Tranquil Sea.

Back cover: About this island, Honor knows this much is true: Enclosure means safe and secure. Different is dangerous. Disappear means no one here. And Earth Mother is always watching.

Jacket flap: In the eighteenth glorious year of Enclosure, long after The Flood, a young girl named Honor moves with her parents to Island 365 in the Tranquil Sea. Life on the tropical island is peaceful--there is no sadness and no visible violence in this world. Earth Mother and her Corporation have created New Weather. Sky color is regulated and it almost never rains. Every family fits into its rightful, orderly, and predictable place...
Except Honor's. Her family does not follow the rules. They ignore curfew, sing songs, and do not pray to Earth Mother. Honor doesn't fit in with the other children at the Old Colony School. Then she meets Helix, a boy who slowly helps her uncover a terrible secret about the Island: Sooner or later, those who do not fit disappear, and don't ever come back.

The Other Side of The Island is dystopian fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction. At some point in the future, Earth is devastated by a terrible, tremendous Flood. An event that wipes out 90% of human life. The survivors band together--and Earth Mother along with seven council members who become the Corporation--seek to restore Earth and protect humanity forever and ever. The enclosure. Wanting to "protect" humanity by enclosing the islands--creating ceilings for Earth Mother's colonies. This is the basic premise for the novel.

The novel is interesting. It did hold my attention throughout. While I felt it was perhaps a bit more premise-driven than character-driven, a handful of characters are fully developed. I've read reviews that mention they (as readers) had no attachment to the characters, to Honor and her family, but I can't say that I agree with them. At least not completely. While Honor isn't perhaps as compelling a narrator as Jonas is from The Giver or Lina and Doon from The City of Ember, her story has its moments. And judging it just on the 2008 competition, I would say it's more than able to hold its own. (I've read The Resistance (sequel to The Declaration), The Inferior, Gem X, Shift, In the Company of Whispers, Neptune's Children, Fearless, and The Sky Inside. And I've also read The Diamond of Darkhold, the fourth in the Ember series.)

The book is built around a few too many coincidences for me. Slight spoiler: (The mother just *happens* to teach her daughter to count in base two so that four or five years later when the mother is captured, she can--while supposedly in a semi-permanent drug-induced trance--communicate a secret message to her daughter while decorating a cake. The daughter just happened to be there on a field trip to the bakery when she notices that one of the workers is in fact her *disappeared* mother.) End of spoiler. But when it comes down to it, you can let those things bug you to the point where they drive you crazy, or you can get over it and try to enjoy it for what it is.

One of the more interesting aspects of the novel was how it transformed texts to match this new society's needs. The Lord's Prayer, for example, became the Corporate Creed:

Our Councilors who are seven. Corporation is your name. Your plan to come, Enclosure done--on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And correct all our trespasses. As you correct those who trespass against us. And lead us not into Inaccuracy, but deliver us from lies. For ours is the planet and the power and the glory. Amen.

Reading is subjective. And some books it takes time to really evaluate. For example, a book can leave you with an impression--a genuine impression, a strong one--yet sometimes a few weeks or a few months later, you could have forgotten all about it. Or your impression has weakened or lessened. It doesn't stay with you like you thought it might. And with dystopias, it is often the lasting impression that matters. I can read a dozen dystopias a year...but when it comes down to it...The Giver is the only one that is able to hold onto the top spot year after year after year. It's that rare and spectacular book that from the moment it was published became a classic. It's too soon for me to know if Honor's story will "stick" with me now that I've finished the book.

I would certainly recommend the book to those readers (like me) who can't get enough of either dystopian and/or post-apocalyptic fiction. The book isn't perfect, isn't even practically perfect, but I found it entertaining and interesting. And I think it was worth my time.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Debi said...

It's definitely going on to my wish list! Thanks yet again, Becky!