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Captives (The Safe Lands Book 1) Kindle Edition
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Captives, the first in Jill Williamson's Safe Lands series, is set in the near future (year 2088). The population has been decimated by a water-borne pandemic and the remnants of society have clustered together near safe water sources. The Safe Lands is a bell-shaped walled city that serves to keep its population in and dissenters out. The only problem (well, not the only problem) is that the Safe Land population can no longer reproduce. They have succumbed to a blood-borne version of the pandemic virus and they are all dying. The only chance they have at survival is to find non-infected individuals who can produce healthy babies. And they don't have to look far, because there's groups of them living right outside their formidable walls.
It's the same, but it's different
I've read a lot of dystopian novels. There's something compelling about watching governmental choices go badly wrong, and that's what you get when you read dystopian fiction. Better to read it than live it. It's fun to speculate at a distance.
The problem with dystopias is that they have a tendency to repeat themes/situations. After a while, you feel like if you've read one, you've read them all. Especially now that The Hunger Games is so popular, Suzanne Collin's books have become the litmus against which all dystopias are measured.
I can tell you, Captives bears little resemblance to The Hunger Games. The only thing that's similar is the Safe Lands is a lot like the Capital. The same air of permissability and worship of leisure.
Having it's basis on a pandemic/virus is a similar premise to the movie Thirteen Monkeys, and the books Wither (Chemical Garden series), and Bumped/Thumped (click links for my reviews).
Where this series diverges is in writing. Captives has a large cast of characters, instead of one main character through which the story is filtered (Wither, Hunger Games, Divergent). So there's a lot more going on in Captives than your normal dystopian teen novel, which is reflected in the page count: 415 pages! Although, that's 415 pages you won't want to put down.
Captives is loosely based on the book of Daniel, with the Safe Lands representing Babylon and their dying inhabitants (unsaved). Levi and his crew are from the village of Glenrock. They are disease free believers.
The theological question the book ponders is especially relevant to today: Can a believer hold on to his beliefs in the face of cultural permissiveness? Because the book has many characters, this question is approached from several angles.
Rating: PG-13 for subject matter
Artificial insemination- it's not described, but it is alluded to, along with specimen collection. Safe Land society also features drinking, drugging, and partnering (think life in the US during the 70′s but with better technology).
We have a character that wants so badly to fit in that he places his own needs before those of his friends and family.
We have a character that struggles between wanting to help the Safe Lands society and the wisdom behind doing so.
We have a character who needs to be a leader, but must get past his own anger to become mature enough to do the job.
We have a character who thinks she is ugly and must find her own inner beauty.
What I love about this world is the way Ms. Williamson makes the Safe Lands enticing. You can see why people would be drawn into the lifestyle. And why it would be a temptation to those from Glenrock.
Characters are the most important part of a story for me. Mason, Levi, and Omar, the three brothers who are the center of the story are well-developed characters with flaws and virtues that will carry the series.
Levi is the oldest and the "good son" loved by their harsh and critical father. He embodies the "ideal" - a hunter and a "man's man". He's strong, loyal, and devoted to the people of Glenrock. He's also bigoted, hot-tempered, and self-righteous.
Mason is my favorite character and probably the most-balanced. He's intelligent and wants to be a doctor although in their world it's a woman's profession. He's a bit naive and sometimes too trusting.
Omar is the youngest. An artist he's seen as a weak and sickly "sissy". Both he and Mason are abused (mostly verbally) by their father. Curious about the world outside of Glenrock, Omar is fascinated by the Safe Lands and cannot wait to visit it.
Only a spoiler for the very beginning of the story, Omar betrays the people of Glenrock and is seen by many as a traitor. When the group is taken captive to the Safe Lands, it's Omar who fully embraces the culture.
I was glad that I read this story just before the release of Outcasts because I could not wait for the next book. The pacing is excellent with the story unfolding at a great pace. I could not put it down.