THE BLOG
09/09/2013 12:36 pm ET Updated Nov 09, 2013

52 Books in 52 Weeks, Week 36: The Last Dystopian Future?

Week 36's read for 52 books in 52 weeks was The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon.

According to the internets, Samantha Shannon is a 21 year old English grad student who signed a three-book deal for the first three books of what is a planned seven book series. Colored me impressed (and, sure, a little jealous. 7 books worth of story! That's Game of Thrones territory).

The Bone Season -- the first in the series -- is set in England in the year 2059. But history as we know it stopped in about 1850, when the level of clairvoyance in the world was sufficient to break a barrier between earth and the spirit world, sending the course of humanity off into a very different direction. Now, cities like London are under the control of a security force called Scion. Our hero, a rare voyant called a 'dreamwalker', is Paige Mahoney, who works in London's criminal underworld against Scion. That is, until she's captured and brought to Oxford, where she learns the 'truth' about what's really going on and starts being trained by her captors to fight the real enemy.

Still with me? Okay. So, The Bone Season's setting and alternate history are quite imaginative. Shannon has created a new language and history in this book, which she throws the reader right into. But while I was impressed with the fully realized vision that she has for the book (and likely the series), and the confident writing, I couldn't help feeling like I'd been here a couple of times before.

The obvious examples are The Hunger Games triology and the Divergent series. But I also felt like elements from Harry Potter, Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy and, in one unfortunate element, the Twilight series, were all pulled together here.

Shannon's biography says that she studied film criticism. A lot of films, particularly of this genre can be broken down into eight elements or sequences: the status quo & inciting incident; the predicament; the first obstacle and raising the stakes etc. While I did not feel like I was reading a film script as I read this book, I certainly felt that structure firmly in place. And that, plus the fact that this is the third dystopian alternative-future featuring a young woman with extraordinary abilities that I've read in the last year (and I don't read in this genre normally), makes me wonder: are there any permutations left? Or is the last of them that we'll see?

Only time will tell, but if you enjoy this genre, Shannon's version is worth the read.

And so, week 37: Louise Penny's How the Light Gets In, her first #1 New York Times Bestseller, and the ninth book in the Gamache series. It's been a while since I've been to Three Pines. Hopefully, I'll enjoy the return.

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