Sunday, February 2, 2014

Finding yourself

A book review of "Divergent"

The most difficult obstacle to overcome is high expectations. “Divergent” is a wildly popular novel. It has garnered almost universal critical praise, has a rabid following at Goodreads, is a NY Times Bestseller, is about to become a blockbuster motion picture event, and follows close on the heels of another wildly popular book in the same sub-genre, written in a similar style, with a similar premise and main character. It is also in a genre and sub-genre I happen to love—science fiction, dystopian, action adventure.

Talk about having a mountain of expectations to live up to! 

I am happy to report that “Divergent” is a thoroughly gripping—and at times downright riveting—epic tale anchored by a strong narrative voice and a great main character. Author Veronica Roth writes with a supreme confidence of a veteran storyteller as she draws us into the world of a dystopian Chicago by taking us into the mind of Tris as she approaches her sixteenth birthday—the day when one must choose their faction. Factions are isolated cultures, each with their own very specific code of conduct and lifestyle. What makes Tris special is she does not really fit neatly into any one of these factions—she is a “divergent”—someone who cannot be programmed and controlled so easily—someone who can think and react independently. Someone who is dangerous to the powers to be—sinister characters who are making corrupt plans where control means everything.

Post-apocalyptic societies set up in separate classes and divisions have been a staple of dystopian science fiction since H.G. Wells. But the author does a nice job in creating the factions in the book, making each one unique and believable—especially “The Dauntless”, the faction Tris joins. The Dauntless are essentially a society of daredevils and this makes for some suspenseful and exciting sequences as Tris undergoes her training.

This is a meaty novel, in terms of content, as well as length. But it reads fast. Very fast. Only at one point did the pacing slack a bit when some of the training scenes became repetitive about three quarters into the book. But then—wow—stuff starts to happen and happen and happen fast. The final seventy-five pages are absolutely riveting, jam-packed with revelations and colorful action that never lets up until the exhilarating finale.

Does “Divergent live up to the hype? Oh you bet it does! This is a five star read sure to be enjoyed by anyone who likes young adult dystopia, science fiction, or action adventure of any kind.

It goes without saying that anyone who likes this book will also want to read “The Hunger Games”, and probably has. But there are also some classic science fiction dystopia books “Divergent” fans may want to check out including Robert Silverberg’s “The World Inside”, Adlous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, David Brin’s “The Postman”, and “Logan’s Run” by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson.

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