Saturday, December 20, 2014

Review: Prodigy by Marie Lu

I was surprised, when doing my 2014 prequels and sequels round-up, that I didn't have a review of "Prodigy" up. I thought I did. I definitely remembered reading it and having a minor crisis over the ending. I suspect I set writing the review aside, wanting to give it my full attention in exploring the themes of this deep, challenging book...

Or maybe I just didn't have much to write about?

Day and June are on the run from the Republic. Injured and strapped for cash, they head for Las Vegas to try and join the Patriots, who have just the assignment for them. The Elector Primo has just died and his son Anden is not yet established with the military, and the time is ripe for havoc. The Patriots offer to infiltrate June into the Elector's entourage and, with her help, have Day assassinate the Elector. In return, the Patriots would heal Day and help reunite him with his brother. All things seem to go according to plan, until June actually gets to know Anden and realizes that a bloody revolution may not be the best answer to the problems of the Republic. 

Which, actually, is a stance I really like. Coincidentally, so does this book.

Has anyone noticed how a lot of these new YA dystopias seem to center around one protagonist trying to chop off the head of the snake, and once this bad guy is dead and gone, everything becomes all hunky-dory? Very few series actually acknowledge that the problem is bigger than the EEL of one individual (excellent evil leadership, in case you were wondering.) More often than not, a regime has a whole structure, both formal and societal, that keeps it in place, and the leader is the least of your problems. 

(Aside: do you think the lack of acknowledgement is an American thing, or a product of the times? After all, Orwell and Zamyatin weren't afraid to point out the problem was with everyone, not just the evil bogeymen in charge. Perhaps these days we're less inclined to admit that we contributed to things being the way they are?)

My philosophical inclinations aside, this book is pretty solid on all fronts - offering us a glimpse at structural failures on both sides of the border and asking some tough questions. Day and June are forced to think about what their relationship means in the long run and for everyone around them - whether they like it or not, they have been turned into the symbols of two opposing ideologies, and having a "private life" is impossible when there are tens of thousands of people following your every move and imbuing it with meaning. (A cigar is never just a cigar, kids.) 

And yeah, I wonder what discussions we'd have if we used this book as springboard. I'm a social scientist. But it's also plain fun to read, which explains why people praise it so much. Some of the metaphors and messages come across as heavy-handed, and the secondary characters tend to err more on the side of good or bad rather than morally ambiguous, but hey, it's a polarizing situation.

Writing about this now, I'm surprised I didn't grab Champion as soon as it was available. 

Oh, wait.

I remember.


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