Monday, September 19, 2011

The Dark and Hollow Places

** slight spoilers ahead **

Annah is haunted by many memories: the memory of leaving her sister when they were young in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, the painful memory of getting caught in barbed wire and being forever scarred, and lastly, the memory of Elias leaving for the recruiters. Elias hasn't come home even though the requisite 2 years is up and her sister was as good as dead left alone as a child in the Forest. Annah is utterly alone and struggling to keep her hope alive in her dilapidated, empty apartment, but loses the battle. Armed with resolve to leave and start anew, Annah sees her sister at the gates to the Dark City with an infected young man. She turns back to find her sister, alleviate her own guilt, and reconnect with her twin. Unfortunately, forces outside of their control seek to keep them from finding a new life, namely the Recruiters (corrupt and brutal military men) and the walking dead.

The Dark and Hollow Places is told through the eyes of Annah, Gabry's twin introduced in the previous book. The change in perspective is at first a little strange and then a welcome experience. Annah is completely different than both Gabry and Mary. Her hard life has taken a toll on her and made her more hardened and callous than the others. Her outlook on life is bleak, which isn't surprising considering the world in which she lives: one without hope or love. The scars on her face are just a fraction of the actual scars she has, both physical and emotional. She is strong and self sufficient or she wouldn't have survived very long in the Dark City. Her journey to freedom from the Dark City is paralleled by her journey to self acceptance. Her guilt and hatred for herself has consumed her for so long that she sees herself as a horrible and broken person, unworthy of any real relationship. As the story goes along, she learns to feel comfortable in her own skin and embrace her identity. This aspect of the story is one I think everyone can relate to. The story is really about a girl struggling to find her place in the world and learning to accept herself.

The change in perspective is especially interesting because the characters and places all look different through Annah's eyes. The Dark City that Gabry's friends so long to live in is actually not somewhere anyone in their right mind would want to live in. The recruiters that rule it are brutal and violent, stealing from and abusing its citizens. The city is broken and horrible, just as it seems the whole world is. It isn't long before that city is also overrun with the Unconsecrated. The view of Elias is also very different. I remembered liking him in The Dead Tossed Waves, but now I really don't like him. He abandoned Annah to join the Recruiters, which was noble at the time. What really angered me was that he chose to stay with the Recruiters even though he knew Annah was out there on her own, waiting for him. He also leads her on and then acts as if nothing happened. To Gabry, he's amazing, but to Annah, he is an insensitive jerk.

The dystopian aspects of the story are still intact and work very well. The Recruiters are awful, but also realistic. They do what they have to in order to survive and lord their power over those who are weaker for entertainment. They prove to be even more monstrous than the zombies and the characters fear them about as much. A wider view of the world is shown as well, but most of it is unfortunately overrun with zombies, dampening the hope that there is some sanctuary still in existence against the undead. This installment is the darkest and best of the trilogy. I recommend this to any zombie or dystopia fan.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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