Plague (by Michael Grant)

21 04 2011

OK, the cat’s got a major problem here… 2012? Seriously? That’s how long we have to wait till the next Gone installment? In a previous review the cat already said how these books read like a train, so having your audience wait that long just seems cruel, but obviously a very good marketing strategy. I mean, anyone reading Plague will not be new to the series, so waiting they will, eagerly, excitedly, …  in the mean time, they’ll infect others who will pick up the first part and work their way up to Plague and who will be excited till Fear comes out in 2012. That’s definitely how you create and confirm the hype! There will be other book release countdowns, YouTube trailer teasers, maybe even Gone-a-thons…

As for Plague itself, what do we get? Well, obviously more of the same. The freak-o-meter still has readings that are off the chart. I wonder how Michael Grant creates his universe of characters? Does he sit down at his desk, white paper in front of him, black crayon in his hand and then start to draw some of the mutations of these kids to see how they play visually? Like, hmmm..I wonder what could be next? I know, maybe we could have one character with a whiphand shapeshift into another character, I wonder what that would look like? Or, what if we had kids with big-mouthed bugs growing out of their shoulders?  Or maybe we could have some of them cough up their lungs, like literally…?  Visualize that!

But of course, there’s more than the freak-fest here, by now we know that Astrid’s brother Little Pete is strongly connected to the existence of the FAYZ. Drake and Brittney who emerged as one creature at the end of Lies, still share a body, and especially Drake will try to wreak havoc. At the same time, there’s a bunch of kids who are dealing with the “Plague” of the title. In Lies some kids already displayed certain flu-symptoms, but given the fact that the kids have renamed it to SDC – Supernatural Death Cough – it’s clear that this is not your regular type of flu.  On top of that there’s another group of FAYZ kids that gets to deal with an infection of flesh-eating parasites. Friends and foes will have to join forces to battle these plagues…

Is the Gone series a deserved hype, you will ask, because you know, usually a hype is just that: a smokescreen to mask real quality (::cough:: Twilight ::cough::)… The cat says: yes definitely! The Gone series has everything to be the teenage book hype of the decade, but Gone is more than just a hype. The books define the word fast-paced, they’re easy to read so will convince a larger than normal readership, they’re full of angst and suspense, they have the supernatural twist (well more than a twist – full-blown freakiness is more like it), there’s love, there’s hate, there’s good, there’s bad, there’s the in-between. Michael Grant has definitely created a world wholly onto itself, where the kids define their boundaries, and he’s not afraid to add a certain overall sense of morality – very very tricky indeed. Morality used to be the no-no word for the cat…you know the Grand Message At The End Of The Book, usually belittling the teenage readership who were deemed too stupid to be able to make up their own mind, or worse, who would probably choose The Wrong Path, so the author would make sure to help them along a little bit by telling them what was right and what was wrong. Michael Grant doesn’t do that. Yes, there are obvious evil characters in the book, but supposedly bad characters can also show signs of change (Diana has always been an interesting character, but now she’s on my A-list of Great Female Characters That Are Not Afraid To Speak Their Mind) and the good characters still have to make crap decisions, choose the lesser of two evils, sometimes even do counter-intuitive things making them a whole lot more believable as a result.

Does the cat not have any reservations about Plague? Well, of course she does. Because we had to wait a bit for this installment, Grant needs to go back to previous events a lot to explain what happened and how. He has to do this with every ‘newish’ character (like Sanjit), but also with the ‘older’ characters (like Quinn). He also has to explain events a long way into this book. It goes with the territory of having 6 or more months in between books, I guess. It’s necessary, but at the same time it distracts from the flow of the story he wants to tell in Plague. I think we’re already on page 100 before Grant can stop with the explanatory notes. This is as much to do with the fact that there’s time in between installment as with the specific structure of the books. Every book is fairly formulaic in that Grant divides the kids up in certain groups and every group has their own set of problems and adventures to deal with, so once we leave one set of kids to go to the next set of kids, Grant needs to give us some back story… right up until we have met all the Plague protagonists. The cat mentioned this particular problem already when discussing Lies, but luckily due to the fast pace, by the time you’re midway through the book, you’ve forgotten that this was an issue when you started… You just want to get on with it already, definitely with the amount of cliffhangers you get at the end (and no teaser chapter for the next book!).

The cat stands by the conclusion she gave at the end of Lies. She continues to read this for the plot, the excitement and the mystery that slowly unfolds. Each installment is like seeing Die Hard for the first time. And character development has indeed picked up too, but there are still a lot of characters traits and threads that will need to come together in satisfactory way (please no Lost solution!!).  So, Michael Grant, don’t be afraid to go back to your original protagonists and continue to explain their issues and dilemmas (especially now!). But most importantly: no cop-outs!



One response

28 01 2014
My Friend Dahmer / The Darkest Minds | Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] have been popular in the last couple of years: dystopian and/or apocalyptic madness, psychic or otherwise supergifted kids (sometimes even locked up), a romance that might be (or not) and a whole lot of running around […]

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