Rachel lives with her mother Vivian on the property of old Mrs. Moore. It lies right next to The Line, an invisible physical barrier that separates the US from the Away – a hastily abandoned part of the country that was subsequently attacked by enemy forces using a banned weapon. Despite their proximity to Away, which is rumored to harbor mutants, Rachel and her mother live a quiet life, trying never to attract attention. Until the day that Rachel finds a recording from the Away asking for help.
It’s not often you have three strong female leads in a novel, especially in a work of dystopian fiction. And while the teen character, Rachel, is the main agent in setting up the action of the story, you can take her character at face value – overprotected, naïve, impetuous, and daring. It’s Vivian and stern Mrs. Moore (who I totally imagine as Judi Dench) who provide the secret backgrounds and satisfying twists.
The politics and regulations of this new US (Unified States rather than United States – though the change was so subtle, I admit I didn’t even notice it, see interview below) are brutal and show clearly what might happen if an entity like Homeland Security should ever take over and throw out The Bill of Rights. While I definitely appreciated the back story and world building, too much of it happened up front and in the form of exposition which threw off the pacing. What you have now is a slow build in the first half (a less patient reader might snark that the first half is dominated by tons of talk and orchid cultivating in the greenhouse) before the action picks up dramatically in the second half after a chilling visit into town.
THE LINE is due out in hardcover March 4th and its sequel (Yes, there’s a pretty evil cliffhanger) THE AWAY is due in 2011. Find out more about the books and read the first chapter of THE LINE at the author's website.
My Rating - 3 Zombie Chickens: Well Worth Reading
And now a warm welcome to author Teri Hall!
What are some of your favorite dystopian novels, if any? Did they influence you at all in the writing of THE LINE?
The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro are three that I love. And while I would not say that they influenced me while I was writing The Line, I would say that they inspired me, and still inspire me.
In THE LINE, the US is the only country that isn’t given a made-up name. Is there a particular reason for that?
Actually the U.S. is called the Unified States in the book, not the United States. I wanted to suggest the idea that while now we have (or at least think we have) a group of states united together, with certain sovereign rights preserved, to form the U.S., in the world of The Line the states have been unified—they are all under the control of one governing body and there are no individual state rights, nor does the constitution limit the power of the government in any real way over states or individuals.
I thought a very subtle change in the name could convey this, while at the same time also conveying the notion that often, it is very subtle changes over time which add up to the loss of freedom. We don’t notice the day to day adjustments to our rules and regulations, until one day we wake up and we are required by law to possess special papers if we wish to leave our own country. (Sound familiar to anyone?)
As far as the other country names, they are all based on something about existing countries or how existing countries might change and combine over time to become new countries.
Throwing out the Bill of Rights in the name of National Security is something that almost seems plausible given some of the current political rhetoric. Is a world like what exists in THE LINE in our future?
I don’t know. But I wanted to ask that question and others (Why do we fear what is different? How can we overcome that fear and learn to embrace what is essential about persons, and ensure that we all enjoy the same rights and freedoms? What exactly do we include in our definition of persons? Can we come up with a better definition?). Encouraging discussion was one of the things I hoped for—I have had some wonderful responses from teachers about using The Line as a discussion tool in class rooms and I think that is exciting.
When Rachel surfs her version of the Internet, she reads rumors of sheep-cats and other mutations. What is the strangest thing you’ve ever read on the Internet?
Um, wow. Too many things to mention.
Why do you think dystopian fiction is so hot right now? What’s the attraction?
I really think dystopian fiction never goes out of style. Some people like it because it’s a little frightening, some because it really allows one to escape into another world entirely. There is a fabulous list of dystopias dating from the 1960s to the present, compiled by Dr. Amy H. Sturgis, at http://eldritchhobbit.livejournal.com/262872.html. Great titles that show a long fascination with this genre.
I have 3 hardcover copies of THE LINE up for grabs to residents of the US and Canada. Just tell me in your comment one of the strangest things you ever read on the Internet and you're entered! I'd appreciate it too if you'd tweet a link or post a link in your sidebar, thanks! This contest will remain open for 2 weeks, until March 8th at 11:59 PM CST.
See Index of all Dystopian Reviews on Presenting Lenore