Sunday, August 03, 2014

Book Review: Captives (Safe Lands #1)

Captives (Safe Lands #1) by Review by ()

In the 2080s, much of the known population has perished due to the lack of safe drinking water. Only a few places remain in the known world. The story takes place in a region that has a large, modern population in a walled city and several small, more primitive townships around it. There must be other populated areas as planes regularly depart from the large, walled city, but those that live outside its walls don't know much more than that, having adopted a way of life much more akin to that of frontier life, trading with each other, living in close knit families, raising children, growing crops and tending to lifestock, attending church, and so on.

The story focuses on the big walled city and one of the smaller towns. The large city has not seen a successful birth in years, everyone is sick with a plague. They have eschewed all sense of family - children are raised in schools, adults enjoy a very cavalier do-as-you-please lifestyle including drugs, alcohol and everything else you can think of. Women all have to take turns trying to conceive (via artificial insemination) during their two-month stint each year as part of "The Harem," a life of extra luxury in essentially a guarded dorm.

One of the members of the township makes a deal with the city's leaders in order to gain wealth and power for himself, a deal to allow the city access to the township. The idea is that they will come into the township and offer rewards and benefits to those who come to live in the city voluntarily, the hope that they will be able to provide new babies to the city. Things go awry when they arrive in the town and eventually the town's residents end up finding themselves to be residents of the city by force. Of course, they would rather not, so the book is the first in three about their attempts to navigate the city and its culture while staying alive, staying true to their own beliefs an eventually escaping.

The city is a near police-state where people are assigned their jobs by taking tests and they believe that each person has 10 lives. A digital tattoo on each person shows which life they are in and then if they've been in trouble, one or more X's next to their name. After three X's, you get "liberated" and are free to move on to your next life. (Of course, there are no next lives if they can't solve the lack-of-babies issue.) So that's the cleverness of the author, right? Just who are the captives?

It's probably pretty clear this is a morality play, with the outsiders praying and quoting scripture. I rarely felt hit over the head with this, it was more like "Oh, yeah, we don't usually see this in dystopian futures." It was mostly more like when you see someone on TV come out of a bathroom and you think "Oh yeah... how come no one on TV ever uses the bathroom?" The places it felt down, though, were when characters were so spitting mad they wanted to curse, but because of their upbringing they're yelling nonsense phrases. I already sent the book back to the library, so I'm paraphrasing but probably stuff like "you rat vomit!" - To me, that was unnecessary - it was jarring, cheesy, and if we're really being honest here, it's not the words that come out of your mouth, but if you allow yourself to become angry. (Click here for some Bible verses about anger.) Also, the writer attempts to invented trademarks to describe the technology which really hardly ever works. It would have been better not to have given them names. The third thing that bugged me were five or six blatant word errors. They wouldn't be flagged by a spell-checker (they were spelled correctly) but the editor must have been asleep on the job because these shouldn't have gotten past the editor.

Despite its short-comings, it worked well enough for me that I'm interested in reading the next book.

Captives (Amazon)
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