Monday, 7 June 2010
Connor's parents want to be rid of him because he's a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev's unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family's strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can't be harmed -- but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.
Review: I am a complete sucker for dystopian fiction. So when I saw Unwind in the library and read the blurb, I snatched it off the shelf and practically sprinted down the stairs to take it out. And it's a cool idea: unwanted children get taken apart -unwound- and their bodies used for transplants. Hence, no *real* doctors are needed or medicine are needed. Why have an inhaler and whatever for your asthma, and have trouble breathing when you run/touch animal hair/inhale pollen when you can just get a new lung? It seems like such a good, simple "why didn't I think of that?" idea, but you can tell that Neal Schusterman has given it some real thought. I particularly loved the idea of Tithes- children from extremely religious families who spend their whole lives preparing to be Unwound, and see themselves as sacrifices for God.
But on the other hand, it didn't really *feel* like a dystopia. No climatic disasters? No Corporations? No nuclear war? No enslaved citizens, living in poverty and forbidden to live freely à la The Hunger Games or Exodus? Are you sure this is a dystopian novel? It's only because of the Unwinding thing that it really is: there are references to contemporary people, places, even pop songs and films. So it seems quite original in the genre in that sense, and even more unbelievable. That world is so much like America (or anywhere in the western world for that matter), so it seems all the more frightening. Could such a thing really happen in a world so like ours? Kudos for that.
I think every science fiction novel ought to be written with the same style: spare, but with enough description of the places and people to keep things interesting. As much as I like imagining things for myself (which is why I loathe it when books are made into films), you need some sort of picture. Other books need poetic, flowing description, but Unwind works best with every unecessary word cut out.
I'm not so keen on the characters, though. They were all sort of annoying in one way or another: Conor seemed selfish, Levi was a spoilt brat, and Risa seemed slightly two-dimensional and the steriotypical female, e.g looking after the baby while the guys did the work. As the book went on, slowly but surely Levi and Risa got more bearable, but I was still pretty annoyed by Conor 352 pages after I had first met him, and his heroic deeds didn't make him seem any better. He just seemed agressive and arrogant to my mind.
Speaking of the 352 pages. It was fantastically paced and I was intrigued by it from the very beginning. This is probably to do with the writing style. It started slowing down slightly as the book went on, with less and less action, but the climax was excellent. Dramatic. Devastating. But hopeful, too.
Summary: Not a great book, but not a bad one either. It's definitely worth a read for all teenagers, girl or boys, whether they're fans of dystopian novels or not. Rating: 3.5.