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Pure Hardcover – Large Print, 2012
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A Q&A Between Justin Cronin and Julianna Baggott
Justin Cronin is the author of The Passage.
Justin Cronin: As Pure opens up we meet a girl named Pressia, who has a doll-head fused to one hand and a crescent-shaped burn around one eye. Where did this image and character come from?
Julianna Baggott: The doll-head fist first appeared in a series of strange, otherworldly short stories. At the same time, I wanted to write something really ambitious, large in scope with cinematic world-building. Not thinking of either of these things, I sat down one day and started writing a dreamy stream of consciousness from the perspective of a 16-year-old girl, hiding in an ashen cabinet in the back of a burnt-out barbershop. I then realized that this girl had a doll-head fused to her fist and that the landscape outside of this barbershop was that ambitious cinematic landscape I'd been longing to write. The two things knit together, and Pressia found her true home.
Justin Cronin: Pure presents a dystopian future after the "Detonations." What is it about post-apocalyptic fiction that attracted you as a writer and strikes a particular chord with readers today?
Julianna Baggott: Pressia is someone who finds small moments of beauty even amid all of the destruction of this post-apocalyptic world. That was one of the challenges--creating a character who's capable of seeing beauty, who's resilient and tough, and still has hope. I think that our world right now feels precarious--economically and politically--and therefore readers might be drawn to fiction that reflects the necessary toughness that so many people are relying on to survive. But, too, readers might be drawn Pure because the teen years can feel post-apocalyptic, and, on that level, Pure reflects a kind of emotional honesty that feels real.
Justin Cronin: In the world of Pure, who are the Pures and who are the Wretches?
Julianna Baggott: The novel opens with Pressia who has survived the Detonations and is therefore a Wretch. But we also get the perspective of Partridge who's survived the Detonations inside of a protective Dome; he's a Pure. He's always believed that his mother died a saint while trying to save people during the Detonations. When he finds that this might not be true, he escapes the Dome to find her. The two characters' lives are set on a collision course and become entwined in many twisted ways that make this book a thriller.
Justin Cronin: The cover of Pure includes a striking image of a blue butterfly. What does the butterfly symbolize?
Julianna Baggott: The novel will hopefully force readers to think about what it means to be truly pure--pure of heart. The blue butterfly can represent the Pures who, like Partridge, live in the protective Dome, much like the bell jar on the cover. But it can also represent a more personal purity--like that of Pressia and some of the wretches who struggle to live with their dignity and humanity intact. In the second book in the trilogy, the blue butterfly takes on a more literal meaning as well. Also, check out the back cover of the book. There you'll find a mechanical butterfly created by the artist Mike Libby, well known in steampunk circles. The mechanical butterfly exists in Pure as one of Pressia's creations.
Justin Cronin: What can you tell us about what's coming next for Pressia, Bradwell, and Partridge in the next installment, Fuse?
Julianna Baggott: I broaden the ravaged landscape. Some of the characters travel great distances. There are new creatures to contend with, as well as plot twists and turns within the Dome. (I absolutely love the new characters that we meet within the Dome--as well as the development of characters that readers only met briefly in Pure.) In addition to a new mystery to be unraveled and power struggles, there are two love stories in Fuse that really take hold, go deep, and become much more complex.
"What lifts PURE from the glut of blood-spattered young adult fiction is not the story Baggott tells but the exquisite precision of her prose...discomfiting and unforgettable."―The New York Times Sunday Book Review
"Baggott's highly anticipated postapocalyptic horror novel...is a fascinating mix of stark, oppressive authoritarianism and grotesque anarchy...Baggott mixes brutality, occasional wry humor, and strong dialogue into an exemplar of the subgenre."―Publisher's Weekly (STARRED review)
"A great gorgeous whirlwind of a novel, boundless in its imagination. You will be swept away."―Justin Cronin, New York Times bestselling author of The Passage
"PURE is a dark adventure that is both startling and addictive at once. Pressia Belze is one part manga heroine and one part post-apocalyptic Alice, stranded in a surreal Wonderland where everyone and everything resonates with what has been lost. Breathtaking and frightening. I couldn't stop reading PURE."―Danielle Trussoni, bestselling author of Angelology
"From the first page on, there are no brakes on this book. It's nearly impossible to stop reading as Baggott delves fearlessly into a grotesque and fascinating future populated by strangely endearing victims (and perpetrators) of a wholly unique apocalypse. And trust me, PURE packs one hell of an apocalypse."―Daniel H. Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse
"A boiling and roiling glorious mosh-pit of a book, full of wonderful weirdness, tenderness, and wild suspense. If Katniss could jump out of her own book and pick a great friend, I think she'd find an excellent candidate in Pressia."
―Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
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In the case of Pure, I had to stop after a handful of chapters because I could feel myself losing interest. About 50% of the way through I found myself skimming. At 80% the book FINALLY picked up. If the whole book had been like the last 20% I would have most likely been able to say I loved It.
The ending was good and powerful. I loved it. Unfortunately the lead up took way too long and the author tended to focus on things I didn't think were truly that pertinent to the story.
I also had problems with how the book was written. I don't mind present tense writing when it's first person. For the most part I think in the present tense so it usually jives pretty well. However the third person present tense felt a little unnecessary. I remember noting in my head that I was going to have to take points off for that because it was really distracting.
My reservations about the "fusing" also proved to be well founded. I am in the health-science field which is probably what made it just a little too unbelievable. Anything capable of fusing objects to bodies would most likely kill everyone by melting all their tissue or something. I was able to get passed this by suspending my disbelief for a while. But then I was introduced to Groupies and Dusts and other odd combinations of fusing. I was lead to believe that anything they were touching they fused to. So if that's the case, why can they take off their clothes? Why didn't those fuse to them? Why did some people fuse to the ground, but others didn't? If their feet were on the ground, why didn't they all fuse to it? It just seemed like too big of a hole for me.
There will be much debate with myself if I actually want to continue this trilogy. I think I liked this book well enough to give the next one a shot, but I have more reservations this time.
Also this is not a world populated by perfect pretty main characters or those who'll be fixed by some wave of the hand to become aesthetically palatable. Radiation & being forever fused to organic & non-organic things sort of negates that whole thing & I really liked that. When I came across this book, I read that Pressia (the female main character) had a doll head fused to her hand & knew that I needed to read this. It doesn't take long into the story to realize that as fusings go, Pressia & her grandfather are pretty lucky. I have to admit that I was impressed by the description of the Dusts, Beasts & Groupies, the Mothers & Special Forces. And as those in control inside the Dome, their worldview is nastily warped with the Return to Civility. The road taken to achieve it is flat out barbaric & it's not any more able to be overlooked than the physical damage those outside the Dome have. As I read, I could see the beauty of the survivors on the outside. I'm still looking for the same in those in control of the Dome dwellers. This is a place that I was fascinated to read about but I don't know that I'd want to see this as a movie. This is a world that's difficult to look at. The beauty of a scar as a symbol of survival is a powerful thing but watching people fused with window frames, glass shards, cell phones, earbuds, other people, appliances, trees and all manner of other things, just works better for me on a page.
Anyway, the general thrust of the story is Pressia & her need to escape OSR as she's turned sixteen & Partridge (Ripkard?) bailing the Dome to go on a search for the mother he believes is alive outside. They meet up, things go not entirely as expected & the quest to go up against the establishments will ensue & play out over the course of a few books so no tied off story here. There are explanations given about what led up to all this (a merging of politics, religion & social beliefs) & I was impressed that so much detail was given. In the end, it left me wanting to know so much more about Partridge's parents & everything else leading up to the Detonations. Willux is of course, flawed but I couldn't also help but hold annoyance with Aribelle for practically writing off Sedge & just focusing on Partridge for code disruption. I didn't find the reason she did it wholly satisfying but I know it's supposed to absolve her of a bit of culpability. I wasn't expecting any huge resolution & very much tempered my expectation that I would find out what the hell happened that led to the day of the Detonations. What happened to the existing government? The rest of the globe? Hopefully those will be covered a bit in the rest of the series.
I very much liked the interaction of Bradwell & Partridge. They had good banter & bicker moments. At times, I was more interested in their part of the journey than I was in Pressia's (El Capitan did make for an engaging addition to the story though. Still not quite sure when he went all-in with Pressia & Partidge's crusade & abandoned his own but... okay.). Lyda turned out not to be a one off character but her part of the story, while interesting, was very slow going. To be fair, she has fewer entries than the others. Sedge's fate was so underscored in the beginning that I figured he had taken a different path. It was only a matter of time until that was revealed. I worked out the twist about Pressia as well, but I didn't feel it was a flaw in the narrative.
All in all, I'm glad that I read this book. It wasn't a very quick read for me as the images tended to stick in my mind & I wanted breaks along the way. I need to get the next installment from the library soon because I need to know what's next.