Friday, 17 October 2008

The Declaration by Gemma Malley

Spoiler warning: as in, this review will have some.

Well, I decided I was going to do a book review, and I figured since I'd just finished reading The Resistance that I should review its prequel - The Declaration.

The summary (that I got from Times online!)
The Declaration is set in a world in which resources are running out, longevity drugs have been found so that nobody needs to die, and having a child is permitted only to those who have opted out of immortality. Any children born to parents who did not “Opt Out” at the age of 16 are “Surpluses”, and are snatched from their parents and trained to serve the “Legals”, while using as few resources as possible, on the grounds that their existence is theft from the immortal childless population.

Anna, a teenage Surplus, abides by the rules of the cruel institution she inhabits, hating her parents – as she has been taught to do – for illegally giving her life. Then, one day, a rebel boy arrives who offers her kindness and revelations about her own history that change everything. Anna’s conversion from the beliefs with which she has been indoctrinated is persuasively recorded in a novel that, along with characters to care about, considers the virtue of mortality and projects a credible, nightmarish extension of beliefs we are already inclined to hold.

Though it takes a while for things to kick in, by the first few chapters I was hooked. The mystery that surrounds the new Surplus Peter is almost terrifying- how does he know what he does? Is what he says true, or just a ruse to ruin Surplus Anna's chance at being a Valuable Asset?

The first thing that I adored about this book is how real it is. Longevity drugs are a product of Stem Cell research. First they cured Cancer, HIV, and finally, ageing. The power to be immortal is what most people wish for - not to have their bones weaken, their skin to sag and their lives to end. It is possible, in the future, that this could happen; that we could all be immortal, and with it, lose the chance to have children.

The second thing that struck me is how sure Anna is of everything. She is Surplus. She does not have the right to live forever. She does not have the right to own any possessions. Her parents are evil beings, only intent on breaking rules. She has no other purpose in life than to be a Valuable Asset. Then, the third thing strikes like a snake - Peter changes her. Everything she thinks, everything she does, it's for the better.

Surplus Anna drags you along with her - you walk through the corridors of Grange Hall with her... you crawl through the escape tunnel with her, you see her brother for the first time with her, you feel the terror of the Catchers approaching, the desperation when Ben will not be quiet. And finally, you watch her parents die with her.

This unique story is thought provoking and terrifying, and it leads onto on of the best books I have read so far: The Resistance.

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