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Review: Plague by Michael Grant

plague michael grant Review: Plague by Michael Grant

Michael Grant is an author who has no problem killing his darlingsand Im not just talking pretty adjectives here, but whole characters, too. In fact, Grant seems to take rather a good deal of joy in torturing them, tormenting them, and eviscerating them in as gory a manner as possible. While Grants characters dont exactly have a fun time of it, the reader certainly does. And with Plague the most visceral, cruel outing thus far in Grants consistently outstanding Gone series, its safe to say that the reader is in for quite the thrill-ridealbeit a stomach-churning one.

Its been seven months now since the adult population of Perdido Beach vanished without a trace. Seven months in which the kids of Perdido Beach have faced everything from civil unrest to abject famine to murderous mutants. And despite the best efforts of everyman hero 'Sam Temple and his industrious mates, the fragile democracy the survivors have fought so hard for is teetering on the edge of a participative precipice. Because scarcity makes people do funny things. And so does power. And so does fear.

One thing that people struggle with is systems thinking, and its a problem thats all too evident in this tentative little society. While some individuals take steps towards a longer-term visionfiercely capitalist Albert being a salient case in pointit seems all but an impossibility to think beyond the current state of affairs, let alone try to take into account the flow-on effects of even the smallest action. But if even Buddhist monks struggle with karmic reckoning, then these kids are in for a tough time. Particularly when many of their woes are from external, unforeseen forces.

In Perdido Beach, water supplies are dwindling. Not only is water scarce to begin with, but the mechanisms for collecting and purifying water are quickly breaking down. But while thirst is a terrible thing, so is illness. And the incurable plague that is sweeping through the already weakened young populace of survivors is about as horrific as one can imagine. But these setbacks arent all that Sam and the others must face. A huge swam of parasitic mutants with a distinct inclination to kill is on its way, too.

As in the previous books, Grant keeps things moving with all manner of big-talking, butt-kicking action scenes, and theres nary a scene where at least one character is in peril. But while the blood and gore and action is no doubt key to keeping his young readership engaged, its the social themes in this series that keep oldies like me reading along. Somewhere amidst all of this narrative mayhem, Grant manages to get his teeth into some solidly fascinating concepts that range from the political to the philosophical to the social to the economic. Theres a good deal of thematic continuity in these books, with certain themes gradually expanded upon as the books progress and as certain elements become more salient, but each book has its own distinct issues that help to set it apart from prior reads.

Plagues, in my mind, are those of power, sacrifice, and perhaps even contentment. One of the toughest struggles faced by the characters in the book is whether to grant the return of exiled megalomaniac Caine, and what exactly this will entail. Taking this step necessarily provides a commentary on the value of these leading characters earlier actions, and certainly gets one thinking about the prisoner/prison guard paradox dissected in so many social theory critiques. Caines being called upon immediately results in a shift in the balance of power, with Caines self-concept undergoing a dramatic (and terrifying) shift almost instantly. And of course the self-concepts of the other characters must similarly shift to accommodate this new dimension.

Grant gets into morality and ethics here, too, and the notion of the sacrifice of one for the greater good of many crops up in several different contextswith Dekka, Little Pete, and to some extent Diana, just to name a few. We not only see characters acting in a way that they perceive may be for the greater good, but also to atone for past wrongs. This concept segues challengingly into the value of human life, which is considered widely throughout the novel: Quinn and his new identity; the inhuman Orc; tormented Albert; and Diana and her end-of-the-book surprise. (Incidentally, one thing that fascinates me in these books is that theres such emphasis on convalescence. Despite the sheer terror of these kids lives, we have a full-time make-shift hospital on offer to help with sick and ailing kids. This is course, points to the value of all human lifeincluding invalids and the disabled, which is an essential point raised when the future of autistic Little Pete is discussed and challenged.)

Contentment and happiness are curiously salient themes in Plague, too. Despite the frankly vile situation in which these kids have found themselves, Grants characters are damn robust, and many of them actually come into their own as a result of the challenges that they face. They slip into new identities, and take pleasure in their new skills and abilities. This is in a contrast from the earlier books, where happiness could be found at the bottom of a box of XBox games.

For the most part, Plague continues the superb legacy of Grants earlier books. Still, there are a few moments where things slow down a little, or where we seem to be spinning our wheels. Caines reappearanceand his subsequent claiming of a regal role (oh, the audacity)is a touch on the nose, for example, and one does become bogged down occasionally amongst the various characters who make little more than a cameo appearance. A bit of editorial snipping might have made for a sleeker read, but despite its flaws'Plague makes for a page-turner thats surprisingly thoughtful, too (monsters and mutants aside).

Rating: star Review: Plague by Michael Grantstar Review: Plague by Michael Grantstar Review: Plague by Michael Grantstar Review: Plague by Michael Grantblankstar Review: Plague by Michael Grant (excellent)

With thanks to Hardie Grant Egmont for the review copy.

Purchase Plague from Amazon | Book Depository UK | Book Depository USA

See also'our review of'Gone.

See also'our review of'Hunger.

See also our review of Lies.

Other books by Michael Grant:


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bzrk michael grant1 Review: Plague by Michael Grant

pixel Review: Plague by Michael Grant

One comment

  1. What an extraordinarily intelligent set of reviews. Its both gratifying and a little off-putting to have someone notice that I am committing philosophy in this series.

    I want to explain one small thing. I hope I dont sound defensive.

    Its what I think of as the George RR Martin problem. Mr. Martin, a favorite of mine, suffered from series bloat. I think its because he felt he had to regularly service characters and plotlines. This leads to a problem of arithmetic. If you start with, say, 10 characters, and add a few each book, soon youre servicing twice as many characters and plots as you started out with. So you either have to make the plots thin or the books fat. I decided to try to avoid both by moving some characters into the background when I didnt need them.

    Im the co-author, with my wife, KA Applegate, of the Animorphs series. We wrote it 15 years ago, give or take. Its just been re-released, and in preparation for this weve done some online events and just did a book festival in Los Angeles. Kids who are now in university, kids (well, kids to us) with advanced degrees, cried on Katherines shoulders and said Animorphs had changed their lives. One after another they said that the series had planted in their 10 year-old selves an interest in matters of morality, politics and philosophy.

    You know how many reviewers ever got that thats what was going on in Animorphs? None. They described it as a good series for reluctant readers.

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