Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Aquifer" by Jonathan Friesen {book review}

 
| Music listened to while writing this post:
The Fire in Her Eyes - TSFH/Michal Cielecki
Aeterna - TSFH/Michal Cielecki
Stronger Than You Think - Fireflight
Rising Force - Morabito-Guo Music |
 

Only He Can Bring What They Need to Survive.
 
In 2250, water is scarce, and those who control it, control everything. They'll do anything to maintain their power---deceiving, dividing families, banning love ... killing those who oppose them. Above all, they seek to control knowledge and communication---ensuring the truth that will bring their downfall will never be known. But one person verges on discovering it all.
Sixteen-year-old Luca becomes the Deliverer, the one chosen to make the yearly pilgrimage: He must descend to the domain of the hideous 'Water Rats,' creatures who mine the essential water and pump it to the desperate 'Toppers,' in exchange for light. But when Luca meets a Water Rat who captures his heart and leads him to secrets---secrets about a vast conspiracy, and about himself---the net around him tightens.
Luca and those around him must uncover and share the truth needed to overthrow tyranny---even as they fight for their lives.
-

This, people, would be the back cover snippet of the hot-off-the-press dystopian YA novel Aquifer.

I had the privilege of being sent a pre-release advanced reading copy, and I'll be honest - ever since I first read the plot of this story I was hooked. It reminded me vaguely of City of Ember, and I had really enjoyed that story.

Also, I've always been drawn to plots involving an expedition deep within the earth's core.
The science-geek side of me has always been fascinated with the earth's inner layers and makeup. While neather City of Ember or Aquifer are *scientific* books, I enjoyed both greatly.
In City of Ember, the MCs leave their underground dwelling place in exchange for one above the earth's surface. In Aquifer, the MCs leave their aboveground world for something down below.
I thought that was a neat contrast.

Anyway. I guess that was a random observation.

Let's get down to business.

This was one of those books that you read, and the thought goes through your head "You know, this would make an epic film. I guarantee anything that somebody will come along and recreate this on screen."

I don't say that about every book I read.


Plot:
Woah. As I said earlier, I could totally imagine this book in film form. Now in order or me to state that, the plot would have to be pretty amazing, because I'm very particular when it comes to plots and movies. So yeah. The plot was amazing. I will say that the ending could have been a bit stronger, considering the labyrinth of plot twists and surprises along the way, but I wasn't upset with it.
The ending was probably the worst part in the book honestly.
Now, considering that the rest of the book's plotting was epic, this isn't saying it was a horrible ending. As I mentioned a priori, it just could've been a bit more forceful. I found it pretty vague, and even though I understood it to be an open ending, (those I'm actually very fond of, both in my own WIPs and other peoples') it still was terribly hazy.

 I almost suspect a sequel.

That being said, Friesen employs so many plot twists it's hard to keep track of them all. And many I'll admit are unforeseen and enter the story quite smoothly. I do love a good plot twist or two! (in this case, make that dozens!)


Genre:
Let's just be honest. There are way too many dystopian books out there today. It feels like we've seen an influx of futuristic fiction in just the last several years. 2013 has been bombarded by the stuff.
Now, don't hate me for saying that... It's just what I observe. Dystopian is obviously quite a popular genre right now. And there's nothing wrong with that. But fact is, it's getting harder and harder to find a unique, distinguishable plot among the dystopian deluge of today.

I'm pleased to say, that Aquifer held its own.

 It is indeed a dystopian fiction involving a overly-powerful 'government'/dictator-like leaders,(a very common element employed today) and there are elements which do remind me of other works in the genre. For example, emotion is considered an illegal thing in Luca's world aboveground. The government cronies use devices called dials to determine if a person is manifesting/experiencing a 'unnaturally high' amount of emotion. And in the event that this happens, consequences occur.

I've seen similar details used in other apocalyptic works.
You could argue that the whole plot of a 'redeemer traveling beneath the surface' is unoriginal as well. But the truth is, there's nothing new under the sun.

Honestly? For a dystopian book of 2013, this is, in my opinion, very unique in its many aspects. There may be some elements which are common in today's dystopian book world, but overall?
Aquifer still stands as one unto itself.


Characters:
Ah, the characters. This is always fun to discuss in book reviews.
Luca, first off, is an interesting fellow. He's presented as being nothing more than a scrawny kid in his mid-teens, but as the story progresses this seems to wear off and he emerges as something quite more masculine. His development is fascinating to observe; however, the transition between his immaturity and later maturity is a bit rocky.

His desire to express the rage of emotion within really touched me, because it's something I myself too often feel. While we in our everyday lives learn to hide some emotion vent it out later, can you imagine being forbidden to display any sort of emotive feeling at all? Considering this is what Luca must deal with on a day to day basis, I have a ton of empathy for him.

Luca's father, Massa, is an intriguing man. He is mostly seen as a man robbed of his memory (another doing of the power-hungry 'government cronies', or Amongus.) His development was also interesting to see.

I'll have to say my favorite character was probably Seward. I won't go into detail on his account because there's an awful lot of surprise twists concerning him, but he's a rough old pirate that drew my attention immediately, and soon after, my empathy. 

For the most part, the cast of characters was well developed. I thought Talya was a bit stereotypical, but with time she was sweet in her own way.


Setting:
The world in which Luca dwells is not unlike that of many other dystopian tales. A dried up, spent earth with little resources left to spare for humanity's sustainment.
Luca lives in what is presumably a futuristic version of Australia - I found this tidbit pretty cool.
Friesen did a good job of describing the scenery and topography, of both the world beneath the surface and the world above. Vivid pictures formed in my head on both levels.


Underlying Theme(s):
I wasn't expecting to pick up a novel with Christian undertones, when I decided to review Aquifer.
But that's what I found myself reading. In the beginning, these underlying resonances were vague and easily interpreted in ways beyond a Biblical frame of mind. But as the story progressed, they became a bit more clear. The ending in particular sort of seals the deal, so to speak.
I've never seen Amazing Grace sung in a dystopian novel before. That is, until now.
The Bible was vaguely referenced in several places, and it's implied that it was a book most feared by the government cronies. At least, that's what I got from it.

Now, this being said, I wouldn't call Aquifer a distinctly 'Christian' book. Fact is, the Biblical references are so vague for the most part, that one could easily pass over many of them and not even notice.

I did appreciate their added nuances though. It enriched  the book in a subtly profound way.

Something else I appreciated among the underlying themes was the sanctity of human life. I always, always love to read books which push this. In this case, I believe a focus was clear on 'racial differences'. (Let it be known I never use the word 'racial', I consider it a very evolutionistic word, but I will make an exception here because it addresses the matter most clearly.) I definitely was approving of that emphasis, since racism has always infuriated me!

(On a 1 - 10 basis, 1 being the most mild and 10 the most extreme:)
WARNING - SPOILERS!

Violence:  6. There is quite a lot of shooting and killing. Buckets of blood. Some scenes are more graphic than others but there continues to exist - especially toward the tail end of the book - a ton of fighting and death. People are shot down with arrows, a character is stoned to death, and people are executed by means of being handcuffed and thrown into the ocean.
Sexual Content: 2.  Any type of romance is virtually nonexistent until later in the book when Luca meets Talya. Nothing sexually explicit occurs in the book, overall.  Luca and Talya embrace often, in one such instance Luca describes feeling a "warm tingling in places he shouldn't." (paraphrased)


Overall:
Overall? I flew through this novel because it was just that good. I read it in one day, and could've done so even quicker if it hadn't been that I was on vacation at the beach and wanted to get some time in with the family out in the sand and surf!

I would say this book ranks up alongside my favorite dystopian book this year, Mirriam Neal's "Monster". It's not quite on that level of epicness but it's *right* behind it!

Definitely a favorite in the dystopian genre in general. The writing is well-crafted and easy to read, without being too simplistic. Plotlines carry enough twists and surprise to trump The Hunger Games series (although I'll admit I didn't cry like I did reading those books), which I'd say is notorious for fateful twists and plot shocks. Characters are unique and well-developed for the most part, and the story's events pack a punch.

Overall? Reading this book was a thrilling experience and kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

In my opinion, Aquifer has major potential. I won't be surprised when it becomes the next big dystopian thriller of the year, or when it's made into a major motion picture that sells out across the country. (And if that happens, they just sure better get it right. Because if they don't...well, that would be very painful....for them.)

Oh and didn't anybody notice the uh-mazing cover of this book? Isn't it beautiful?

I think I'll attempt honing my fangirling of this thing into some drawings of the characters. *grins impishly*

Jonathan Friesen's Official Website | Buy Aquifer on Amazon



Note: I was provided an advanced-reading copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed remain mine and mine alone, and I never employ flattery or falsehoods in my reviews.

 

1 comment:

  1. Great review! I've put this on my to-read list :)

    ReplyDelete