I received a copy of this book from the author via the Goodreads ‘First Reads’ programme.
As a result of global unrest, economy collapse and resulting food shortages, Canada, America and Mexico have come together to form one supercountry, the UNA – or United Northern Alliance – which is at war with other such ‘alliances’ and tightly controls the life of its citizens. At the age of 16, said citizens are injected with a serum that allows the authorities to weed out potentially criminal or subversive individuals, who are then sent to Island Alpha to be separated from society; most people never make it past eighteen in this violent, tribal “Lord of the Flies”esque world.
Our protagonist, Alenna, is a meek and mild orphan ward of the state, since her parents were mysteriously taken by the government some years before. So meek and mild is she, in fact, that she doesn’t give the fact that she might fail the serum test a second thought. Of course, the test is administered, she blacks out and wakes up on Island Alpha.
The island is separated into sectors, and luckily for Alenna, she avoids integration into the dominant culture, a weird, quasi-religious cult that are given to drunkenness, violence and worship of a masked man they call The Monk. The Monk’s disciples, or ‘Drones’, are at war with the standard villagers, the society into which Alenna is received. However, all the island’s inhabitants are falling ill with a strange disease they call the Suffering, strange chemical labels are found dotted all over the landscape, and often they are plucked straight off their feet and taken by machines in the sky, never to be seen again. Matters have come to a head, and Alenna and her new companions must labour and travel through the mysterious ‘gray zone’ to discover a way off the island sooner rather than later.
One of the fastest paced and most gripping dystopians I’ve read for a while, it’s a difficult book to put down! The world-building is a little sparse and perhaps there wasn’t enough time to make the love story fully involved, but the exposition required to enhance both of these things would have bulked the story too far and ruined the fast pace. Besides, it’s the first of a series, there is plenty of time to build more in.
I’d read a couple of reviews that suggested the ending was unsatisfying, so the closer I got to the last page the more nervous I got. I disagree that the ending was unsatisfying – it could have ended in a much more unsatisfying place! As it was certain things were resolved, certain things were revealed and we were nicely set up for the next book in the series, The Uprising, coming next year.
Although it’s labelled as being a new Hunger Games, The Forsaken struck me as feeling much more similar to the Divergentbooks, albeit with a Lord of the Flies type edge. But to compare the book to any of the other dystopian series around at the moment is unfair, because it actually stands well on its own. Highly recommended.