Saturday, April 7, 2012

Book Review - Fear: A Gone Novel by Michael Grant

It's been one year since all the adults disappeared. Gone.

Despite the hunger and the lies, even despite the plague, the kids of Perdido Beach are determined to survive. Creeping into the tenuous new world they've built, though, is perhaps the worst incarnation yet of the enemy known as the Darkness: fear.

Within the FAYZ, life breaks down while the Darkness takes over, literally—turning the dome-world of the FAYZ entirely black. In darkness, the worst fears of all emerge, and the cruelest of intentions are carried out. But even in their darkest moments, the inhabitants of the FAYZ maintain a will to survive and a desire to take care of the others in their ravaged band that endures, no matter what the cost.

Let me preface this review by stating that I am absolutely in love with this series. It has everything a long running series needs: an engaging and unique plot, kids with mutations and powers, extremely well written, believable characters; real life issues, horror, gore, love, action; thought provoking situations that blur the lines of right and wrong. My praise for these books could go on and on forever, but let me also state that I am not one to be biased in my review just because I adore the series. While a very strong book and great addition to the series, Fear is not perfect.

Fear is the fifth and penultimate book in Michael Grant's Gone series. For all of you who haven't yet read the previous books (shame on you, get on it!), let me first set the scene. The series takes place in a fictional town in California called Perdido Beach (In loose Spanish, the town translates to "Lost Beach"; a very fitting piece of symbolism), where one day all of the inhabitants over the age of 14 suddenly disappear. A giant bubble twenty miles in diameter encloses the town and cuts it off from the outside world. The kids are left alone to form order amidst the chaos that ensues with no adults. Strange mutations begin to affect some of the children and wildlife, giving them impossible powers; and a strange entity known as The Darkness (Or the Gaiaphage) begins to make it's presence known.

Throughout the other four books the children have faced the sudden disappearance of the adults, the affects of starvation, a false messiah, and a plague that eats kids from the inside out. Despite all of these hardships, Fear definitely presents their biggest struggle yet: The FAYZ is becoming black and soon the kids will be plunged into absolute darkness.

Fear succeeds because it manages to switch up the established formula that has been in effect for the last four books. Right from the beginning readers are treated to a genuine surprise; the first chapter is told from the perspective of a parent outside of the dome. This is the first time (besides a few brief sentences in Lies) that readers are provided with a look at the world outside. It answers a ton of questions that have built up over the course of series, while also presenting more to keep the reader engaged.

The other way that Fear changes things up is that the action in the story is much less physical. Don't get me wrong, there are brilliantly bloody battles galore, but most of the story is dedicated to superb characterization for many of the characters. A strength of Michael Grant's is that he manages to provide a plethora of players that represent almost every archetype possible. Though each character has some stereotypical qualities, most of them also have traits that set them apart from clich├ęs.

I really liked the developments in the characters we've come to know and the affects that the dome changing has on them. As usual, the one word novel title hits home the major theme of the book. Fear is expressed in ways I never thought imaginable and almost every character faces a situation in which they come face to face with their worst fear. The story is dark and smothering and the reader can definitely sympathize with the characters.

My major complaint with Fear is that the wonderful characterization can sometimes bog down the pace of the novel. This book reads a lot slower than its fast paced action based predecessors. Also, while the character development is great, sometimes the changes seem a bit stretched and seem to happen too fast. This is undermined, however, once you remember that this book is set four months after the end of the last book, Plague.

That issue aside, Fear is a great read. The theme and idea of fear is represented expertly and uniquely and keeps the reader engaged in the plot. Grant is not afraid to spill blood and terrify his readers, and the characters in Fear definitely have their fair share of nightmares to face. The sometimes slow pacing builds up throughout the story and culminates in a fantastic ending that will leave readers dying in anticipation for the final volume in the series, Light, which comes out in 2013.

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