Pandemonium (by Lauren Oliver)

4 11 2012

Pandemonium is the 2nd book in Lauren Oliver’s dystopian Delirium trilogy. It’s no secret the cat didn’t much care for Delirium, because she found it too much a waste of Oliver’s talent and too much of an easy marketing ploy to hop onto the dystopian bandwagon… but since it’s a trilogy, we were stuck with Delirium for 2 more books, and Pandemonium doesn’t really leave much room to breathe either. We’re thrown smack into the middle of the action, which makes it absolutely necessary to brush up on your Delirium before you delve into this sequel.

Pandemonium is divided into two storylines: Then and Now. In Then we learn about Lena’s time in the Wilds right after she’s escaped Portland. She has to deal with the fact that Alex didn’t make it, and the harsh circumstances of life in the Wilds. In Now, Lena seems to be back in her old oppressive society (in New York this time), but she’s clearly been hardened by her experiences in the wilds and she’s undercover, working for the rebels. In the Now storyline Lena ends up being ‘taken’ by Scavengers (also society outcasts, but not like the resistance Lena’s been staying with) together with a boy called Julian Fineman, who’s a token for the DFA (Delirium Free America). In the Then storyline we learn about what it takes for Lena to end up being the girl who can go undercover for the resistance: a girl who’s lost her love Alex, a girl who had to struggle to get out of her love-less society in the first place only to end up in a place where love is not key, but survival is, and surviving is harsh, survival means running, means fighting, means overcoming everything you thought you’d overcome already by escaping.

It’s refreshing to read how Lena – the dull and passive character – is capable of growth and change in that respect. Not only has she learnt that being passive will not save her, she’s also learning how to live in a world without Alex, in a world where she has to get into the middle of the action, not a world she just gets thrown into because of the ‘love for a boy’. No, it’s all about Lena and her survival now. I liked the emotional yet strong Lena of Pandemonium much more than the meek and placid Lena of Delirium. The interaction that Lena has with the other characters – both in Then and in Now – comes off as a lot more realistic and is consequently more believable than the feelings of Lena & Alex in Delirium, mainly because there was never any buildup to these feelings in Delirium. In Pandemonium you get a reasonable justification for what Lena feels and the way she interacts with the other characters. So in terms of character development, the cat much prefers Pandemonium – up until the last page, the last word even of the book, which – even though it was predictable as hell (love triangles in dystopias and all that, … :::sigh::: why oh why???…)  – just felt as a complete disappointment.

In any case, reading Pandemonium was a much better experience that Delirium was – even despite the total copout ending – none in the least because of Oliver’s sumptuous writing style. Lauren Oliver has a knack for the descriptive and the emotional in her language, and yet again it works a charm. So far, though, Delirium pretty much ‘fits the dystopia formula’… which is for fans of the genre two big thumbs up, but for as many other readers a big letdown. Why would you want to do everything that other sets of books also do?

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