It is rather obvious from the start from which other works this book got its inspiration: 1984, The Walking Dead and The Hunger Games. Unfortunately, it has the depth of none of those things merely taking a few sample ideas and pumping it into this book. Voila! I would consider this a work of reverse alchemy, taking three great things and turning it into a useless piece of slush that is neither satisfactory nor particularly clever.
It is written in a rather juvenile way with lots of random swear words, needless sexual references and childish prose “All she wanted to do was smash his fucking fat face to show what she really thought of the little prick”. Yeah, move over Shakespeare. If this is YA literature then this form of writing will only appeal to the sort of teenagers who buy albums with explicit lyrics for no other reason than that they have explicit lyrics.
It is actually quite badly written too as the authors lurch from schoolboy error to schoolboy error. The sin of telling rather than showing is no better demonstrated than in this book. “He had to move slowly or the zombies would see him. The last thing he needed was for to stand on a bit of twig and they all look up and come rushing toward him. If that happened, he’d be dead”. Errr, yeah thanks. That great thing about being a writer is that you imply and then let the reader fill in the gaps
I’m not sure if it is the writers treating the readers with contempt or merely not giving their intended audience the credit for having intelligence enough to absorb themselves into the world. It is all rather one dimensional. All we know is that the six cities are fortified against the wasteland that the zombies occupy. We don’t know anything else except that they are totalitarian and watch all the citizens around the clock. No context or reason for this state of affairs is given.
The zombies though are so underused for much of the book that they do not even begin to qualify as a plot device, not even a MacGuffin against which the story develops.
The howlers continue as the writers make it blatantly clear that they do not agree with having clever little twists in this book: “He [Jonah] would kill Bear and earn his way into City 7, so the plans he’d been making since seven seconds after his arrest could finally get started.” A revelation along these lines would have added substance later on but no matter, no need to allow your readers to think for themselves.
So that’s 1984 and The Walking Dead. How does it relate to The Hunger Games?
The Darwin Games. People fighting against each other and zombies to the death until there is a winner (who then gets to live in the utopian “City 7”. Instead of teenage tributes they are criminals – and there are two from each city. Our hero is Jonah Lovecraft – a man in The Darwin Games for the murder of his wiofe. What’s more, he was turned in by his daughter – Ana – but many believe him innocent and his daughter sorely mistaken about what she witnessed. Then she too finds herself in The Darwin Games and faces the opportunity to join her father in City 7.
Unfortunately, what is really going on is revealed far too early (refer to my earlier comment about the lack of twists) and what is going to happen is rather predictable. Literally nothing comes as a surprise and the one twist that the book includes is rather obvious way before it even happens.
Despite this wealth of complaints and criticisms, in some ways it is rather enjoyable but enjoyable as a guilty pleasure to the extent that a lover of prime steak really does sometimes just want a Big Mac.
Apparently the story continues in “series 2″… I think I’ll pass. A bit of an opportunity wasted as far as I’m concerned.