Saturday, February 20, 2010

Guest Jen Robinson on Michael Grant's Gone Series

Michael Grant's Gone series is a currently ongoing dystopia series that seems to be pretty popular. I've stayed away from it until now, because from the summaries I've read, it just seemed like LORD OF THE FLIES redux. Also, the covers just don't do it for me. I mean how desperate can these kids be if they find time to iron their clothes?

So I asked Jen Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page to write a guest post about the series for me. You see, not only is Jen a fellow dystopia fan, she's also my book twin. Odds are if she loves a book, I'm going to love it. She also writes amazingly concise yet in-depth reviews that are a joy to read, which makes her one of my top go-to book bloggers when I want reading recommendations. And you know what? I think she may have finally made me excited about picking up this series!

Here's Jen:

Hunger and Gone are the first two books in a projected six-book series by Michael Grant (book 3, Lies, is scheduled for US publication May 4, 2010). The Gone series features an irresistible premise for dystopia junkies. One day, in the middle of the school day, an impenetrable dome appears around the town of Perdido Beach, CA. (For what it's worth - Gone was published nearly a year and a half before Stephen King's The Dome). The Gone dome has a 20 mile diameter, and also encompasses a nuclear power plant, a snooty boarding school, a national park, and a sweep of ocean.

What the dome doesn't encompass is adults. Everyone over the age of 14 vanishes when the dome arrives. Other teens disappear as they reach their 15th birthdays. The kids left in the dome have no idea what's going on in the outside world, or even if the outside world still exists. They're on their own. They name their territory The Fallout Alley Youth Zone, or FAYZ.

As if the struggle to survive (finding food, taking care of the younger children) weren't enough, the kids from Perdido Beach soon discover that the boarding school kids are dangerous rivals. Also, some of the kids start to develop unusual abilities (superpowers like invisibility and hyper-speed). These are sometimes helpful, and sometimes harmful, but always make things more complex. As do some developing romances between the main characters. And, oh yes, there's an evil force hidden in the depths of an old mine shaft, that (mostly in Hunger) creeps into the minds and influences the behavior of some of the kids.

I've reviewed both books on my blog (Gone here and Hunger here). Here's what I said about Gone:

"This is an irresistible premise and setting. The plot is fast-faced and compelling. The characterization is excellent, too. The kids have talents and insecurities and relationship conflicts. The primary hero, Sam, is a natural-born leader who resists taking charge. He's joined by other strong, interesting characters.

Although Gone is a long book, it moves quickly, and I read the whole thing in a single day. Each chapter has, instead of a title, a countdown to how long it will be until Sam turns 15. This device ratchets up the suspense."

and about Hunger:

"So what we have, in summary, is a battle between kids with superpowers and a mysterious evil force, set against a backdrop of social unrest after a natural disaster. Dystopia fans will find this series hard to resist. Fair warning, though. Hunger is very bleak. In some ways, I found it more bleak than Life As We Knew It and the Dead and the Gone (two of my favorites, by Susan Beth Pfeffer)... But I found the social dynamics of the book fascinating. There's a whole sub-plot centered around Albert, the boy in charge of the food, who is pushing for the re-introduction of money. He feels strongly that the only way to get kids to work is to give them some individual incentive. I found that whole thread well-done, without being at all message-y. I also liked the bits about kids adjusting to a dystopia set in a modern society - they miss Facebook and MySpace, and they want to keep their GameBoys charged, and so on."

I was a bit less enthusiastic about the characterization in Hunger (I couldn't quite internalize the struggles of the characters), but thought that the tension and issues were ratcheted up compared to the first book, and that it was a better book overall.

I think that the Gone series is an excellent addition to the genre, and will appeal to teen and adult dystopia fans. I think that the books would make great movies (or mini-series). And I'm looking forward to the next book.

Thank you so much Jen!


Lenore Appelhans said...

I just wanted to say, Jen, that I find most dystopias bleaker than Life As We Knew It (I call it dystopia-lite), but I haven't read the sequel.

Alea said...

That girl on the first cover seems to have some dirt on her shirt at least Lenore! ;)

I kind of want to read them, but they also kind of sound scary! Like what the H is going on and where did the adults go!!! I hadn't realized about this dome business either!

And 6 books those are probably going to stack higher than Harry Potter, they are LONG!

Lenore Appelhans said...

Alea - Is that dirt? I thought it was a pattern on the shirt ;)

They do sound scary - where do the kids go that turn 15?! What kind of force keeps track of birthdays?!

I really like the idea of the dome, and even though Stephen King's book is well over 1000 pages, it's going to be shorter than this whole series for sure!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Well, someone said something about this series that made me order it from the library for my daughter (who proceeded to look at the cover and say "no thank you"). Just when you think you know a kid. I would like to read it at some point, once I can dig through a few committments, especially after that recommendation!

Unknown said...

I really didn't like Lord of the Flies but I loved Gone so I guess they can't be that similar. Gone is much more sci-fi-ish. I have Hunger and Jen has made me really want to drop what I'm reading and pick that up instead.

GaiaphageCom said...

Great review/look at the series so far. However personally I enjoyed the characterisation in the second book as we got to know the characters further.

What would be interesting would be more of a background story, like how Caine and Sam got split, how Caine ended up in Coate's and Sam's mother ended up at the same school. Though I don't think we will get that involved with the characters as the story does tend to be about the current than the past (unless its a new character being introduced).

I can't wait for Lies!

Beth F said...

Sounds kind of 1984 -- how do they know when the kid turns 15 indeed!

Jen Robinson said...

Thanks so much for including me in dystopia February, Lenore. I'm glad that I've inspired you to want to read the Gone series.

FWIW, the dead & the gone is bleaker than Life As We Knew It. But still, these are probably more up your alley.

Gaiaphage, I thought that the characters were technically well-constructed (well-rounded, interesting), but something kept them at a distance for me in Hunger. Maybe the viewpoint shifts. Maybe the sheer number of characters. And maybe it was just me...

Sandra Stiles said...

I have both of these on my shelf. I guess now would be a good time to read them. Dystopian fiction is also one of my favorites but I have a question. I label my books by genre in the classroom. This is one set I have not labeled. Should I just place them under science fiction or start a whole other category titled DF (Dystopian Fiction)? Any thoughts?

Carrie K. said...

Love Gone - I read it myself a couple years ago, and am now reading it aloud to my four kids - who all are hanging on every word.

April (BooksandWine) said...

Gosh, this sounds awesome. I have Under The Dome (being an SK fan girl). I think the concept is fabulous.

Gone sounds intriguing, will have to add it to the TBR.

Zibilee said...

Oh, this does sound like an interesting series of books! How is it that I have never heard of them? I think my daughter would love these as well, so we could definitely share them! Thanks Jen, for the awesome primer on these books!

Nayuleska said...

I love the series. I hadn't really seen this covers, because here in the UK they are totally different (no people, just a black cover with the name of the book in orange or green/yellow). Much more interest grabbing for me.

Yes...they are a bit gruesome. But they are a compelling read.