Monday, August 27, 2012
In the future where the world is barren, Gaia Stone had just delivered her first baby as a midwife when her parents were taken by the Enclave, the enclosed and privileged city beyond the wall. Three babies from each midwife in each sector are advanced to the Enclave to lead better lives. It's paradise there and something people outside of the wall never see, but must always serve without question. Gaia has no idea why her parents were taken and waits for days after her own interrogation for any answer. After hearing that her parents will be executed soon, Gaia is determined to go beyond the wall to rescue them. What she find beyond the wall will shock her and force her to completely change her world view. In turn, her actions will change the Enclave forever.
Birthmarked is an interesting dystopia that had some twists and turns I didn't expect. I've been reading a lot of dystopias with enclosed, supposedly idyllic series, but this one is different. The imperfect, diseased, and weak people are condemned to live in poverty and serve the Enclave without ever being part of that world. It's hard work to live, but Gaia and her family have always been happy. When Gaia infiltrates the Enclave, she is shocked to see how different it really is from the propaganda films they are shown. People can be arrested and detained for no reason at all. People are publicly executed as an example to the rest of the population. Incest and genetic abnormalities are a problem because the initial population of the Enclave was too small to begin with, revealing the necessity of bringing in new children to expand the gene pool. This practice also ensures that those outside the wall will never rebel because their own children, brothers, and sisters will suffer. The dumbest thing about this dystopia is that the government bars the creation of any hospitals because it encourages the weak. Hospitals would improve and lengthen their lives in general. It just seems like the whole time, these people are just hurting themselves.
I really like the main characters. Gaia is wonderful heroine with a defined sense of herself and what is right. Before going into the Enclave, she believed taking newborns from their mothers was right and helped her society. Her perspective only changes when she discovers the ugly truths behind the Enclave and adjusts accordingly, working towards the greater good. Her first priority is to save mothers and children like her mother taught her since childhood. Leon is much more fleshed out than love interests usually are. He has his own issues growing up inside the wall, but he is still an outcast. Gaia opened his eyes to the horrible things in his society that he was just used to. I like that the romance with him is a small part of the story than in no way overpowers the rest of the novel.
I liked Birthmarked, but the pace was a little uneven. There was a lot of running around, getting captured, escaping, hiding out. It seems like it could have been streamlined a little bit. Other than that, it was a solid dystopia that got under my skin. The story was realistic and I was interested the whole way through. I would definitely pick up the next book in the series. Recommended for dystopian fans no afraid of grittiness.
My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins
Read as part of Dystopian August at Presenting Lenore.