"Not every story has a happy ending, but that doesn't mean it's not worth telling." This is a line from page 179 of the book, during a stunning scene where our protagonist Lucky is stargazing with his love interest Digory (and fellow Recruit) and telling him stories from mythology commemorated in the constellations.
It struck me because THE CULLING itself is so unrelentingly brutal and we know most of our characters are not going to get happy endings. Because out of the five Recruits selected for the Trials, only one will get a position in the elite ranks of the military – and the rest will be sent to work camps – or worse. And there’s an added sick bonus – each of the Recruits has two Incentives. These are loved ones who will die if the Recruit doesn’t outperform the other Recruits. It’s bleak, folks.
I’ve seen THE HUNGER GAMES comparisons, and yes, the similarities are there. There are three sections in the novel. Section one, The Recruitment, is similar to The Reaping. Section two concerns the Recruits training and Section three is all about The Trials (which reminded me a lot of MOCKINGJAY mixed with that horror movie SAW).
But because there are only five recruits (instead of 24), we get to know much more about each. Lucky’s fellow Recruits are all distinctive characters with fascinating backstories – though the one we spend the most time with, Digory, is such a mysterious figure, he’s the one we find out the least about.
We don’t get a detailed explanation of this dystopian society arose to inflict the cruelty it does, but there are big hints. I’m currently watching the series THE WALKING DEAD, and I kind of imagine THE CULLING’s world as something that could grow out of the type of place Woodbury is under the Governor’s leadership.
In any case, this novel is not for the faint of heart, but could hit your sweet spot if you enjoyed the non-stop action and horror of Ilsa Bick’s ASHES series.
THE CULLING hits stores March 8, 2013. Find out more about it at the author's website.
FTC disclosure: Egalley from publisher