Review: Lies by Michael Grant

lies michael grant Review: Hunger by Michael Grant

More than half a year has passed since the adults of Perdido Beach suddenly vanished, leaving a motley horde of juveniles to fend for themselves. In that time these kids have faced devastating hunger, worsening living conditions, internal fractiousness, and eerie preternatural events. But while things have reached an uncomfortable stasis, 'with a truce of sorts called in the horrendous aftermath of the events of'Hunger (see our review), cracks, as always, are beginning to appear. The democratically elected Council has been thwarted by internal ambivalence, and is teetering under the weight of its own importance, something that the canny clusters of anarchic dissidents throughout the town have noted well. And when certain presumed-dead characters make a terrifying appearance in Perdido Beach, their effect is precipitative, offering the incendiary spark needed for these dissidents to wage war on those against whom theyre ideologically and, well, xenophobically, opposed. Meanwhile, a messiah-like figure of sorts makes an appearance, tempting the youngsters away from the safety of their flock and into the unknown. The members of the Council, increasingly hamstrung by the challenges of maintaining order and cohesion, resort to coercion and lies, and things rapidly degenerate

My thoughts

In Hunger, the predecessor to Lies, author Michael Grant offered up all manner of intelligent thematic material, into which he dove with impressive vigour. Hunger brought us musings on racism and fear of the Other more generally, and touched on issues of egalitarianism and democracy, as well as on issues of incentivisation and motivation, and economics and sustainability. These same themes recur in Lies, but with greater emphasis on the ambiguity of morality, Robespierreian ends-justifies-the-means'politics, and the notion of the sacrifice of rights and freedoms in the name of the greater good. These are challenging themes for a YA novel such as this one, particularly as it has to juggle all of this realistically and sensitively while maintaining a cracking pace from start to finish, but as always Grant does an excellent job of touching on these issues without resorting to naval-gazing or As-You-Know-Bobbing. Character-wise, its fascinating to watch stoic Sam slowly rescind his duties as a leader as it becomes ever more challenging to take the moral high ground as the choices available become increasingly desultory, and to see genius Astrid struggle so painfully with issues of truth, disclosure, and the rights of the individual. Far from maintaining her typically lofty ideals and spiritually informed intransigence, Astrid finds herself struggling with the appropriateness of spreading misinformation and resorting to punitive measures in unusual circumstances. This struggle eventually results in the Council finally creating a set of ostensibly liberterian rules for the Perdido Beach enclave, but with the chilling caveat that special measures may be implemented should the Council deem this to be necessary. Theres potential for a tremendous slippery-slope slide towards totalitarianism and the establishment of a police-state here, and one cant help but make comparisons between the events in the book and recent events

Lies, too, addresses the notion of the power of the individual in a curious way, and its interesting to see how Grant examines this. Many of the physically weak characters (and those, incidentally, without super-powers) are increasingly seen as powerful, and theres an emphasis on the need for personal resilience and internal strength, rather than on physical strength or that gained through powers. Uber-strong Computer Jack, for example, sits out most of this book with an illness, which lightning-fast Brianna also succumbs to. 'Sams nasty brother Caine, similarly, grows increasingly weak, with each passing day highlighting the need to rely on his wiles over his physical abilities. Interesting, Little Pete, Astrids severely autistic brother, is shown to be ever more powerful, a fact that surprises the residents of Perdido Beach due to fact that he is generally so unresponsive and inward-looking.

The power of the individual also butts up against the idea of trust, and its this that Lies so fascinatingly and unflinchingly explores. Astrid and her Council have for so long positioned themselves as the good guys, relying on the bonhomie created by Sams heroic actions to see them through, but the trust that they have spent months garnering amongst their followers is noticeably fragile in the wake of recent events. Indeed, so many of Astrid, Sam, and the Councils actions have been a compromise between what they believe is the appropriate response, and what they can manage at a given point in time, and needless to say the responses to their efforts have been lukewarm at best. Astrid, without Sam, struggles with engendering trust between the other children because she has performed none of the heroic acts of Sam: her own efforts have been more off-stage, and it seems that without these sort of demonstrable actions, others are wary of her all talk, no action policies. The reverse is seen with the character of Mother Mary, who has for seven months now played the role of full-time carer for the younger kids, despite battling a serious illness of her own. The other children will blindly follow Mary due to her previously altruistic actions: theres little need for second-guessing or analysing her motivations. Similarly, the reappearance of dream-reader Orsay and the subsequent impact on the settlement is fascinating: Orsays ability to step into others dreams is well-known, but some such as sceptical Astrid are unsure as to whether the scope of this power is as broad as claimed. But while Astrid attempts to pit the others against Orsay for fear of civil disharmony, the others are looking towards a strong leader with a clear direction, and are willing to place their trust in such an individual. Needless to say, the events that play out are quite fascinating. An intriguing addition, too, is the fact that we at last see what is beyond the dome in which the children are trapped: needless to say this raises all manner of moral/ethical issues.

Despite these strong themes, however, Lies isnt quite as strong as Hunger, in part because the majority of the major characters are sidelined throughout the book, while some seemingly minor characters are given quite a good deal of page space. Similarly, while the introduction of a group of new characters will no doubt raise the tension in the forthcoming books, their actions in this book werent especially notable given the page-time they were allotted. Grant has mentioned wanting to avoid the George RR Martin trap (where a zillion characters are followed relentlessly over a series of incredibly fat novels), and this late introduction is no doubt a result of that. 'Still, by the end of the book, the characters are positioned in what is sure to be a fascinating showdown in the next of the seriesunfortunately I have to wait until April to see what the author has in store.

Rating: ????? (very good)

With thanks to Hardie Grant Egmont for the review copy (which is the stunning tour edition above)

Purchase Lies from'Amazon |'Book Depository UK |'Book Depository USA

See also'our review of'Gone.

See also our review of Hunger.

Other books by Michael Grant:

gone michael grant Review: Hunger by Michael Granthunger michael grant Review: Lies by Michael Grant

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