Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: The Finisher by David Baldacci

The Finisher is yet another YA dystopia. I'm honestly starting to get tired of them - can we have some positive YA science fiction already?

It's well written and appears to be fantasy - I stress appears to be because the book is kind of strange and I'm not sure where it falls - with no help provided by the back cover or the imprint. The worldbuilding is solid so far.

Vega Jane is a young woman growing up in the town of Wormwood which, as everyone knows, is the entire world. Around it is the Quag, a forest full of monsters that can and do eat anyone who enters it. She works at the factory that makes everything used in Wormwood, putting the finishing touches on various objects to make them look handmade. With both of her parents in the town nursing home facility (apparently with dementia), she's also trying to look after her kid brother John.

Of course, the story's really about the truth behind Wormwood, the Quag and what might lie on the other side of the Quag...but in this first book we don't get to see anything outside of Wormwood itself. Which is more than enough - corrupt politicians, sorcery (or psionics, it's not clear), places people are forbidden to go and a divide between the rich and poor that might as well be a gulf. It's not a classic dystopia...from almost page one I feel as if Wormwood is more like, well, a concentration camp. There's no feel of "this is the way somebody thought society should work but they screwed it up" as in the best dystopias. It's more "these people are trying to control everyone, possibly for their own survival."

Where the book really falls down is the use of conlang. For example, Baldacci uses male and female instead of man and woman throughout, and then resorts to the hideous construction of "male-handled." Uh, nope. If you're going to use alternate terms for basic concepts like years, then they have to feel like words people will actually use. (Sessions? Really?) Instead of pulling me further into the world, the conlang threw me out of the story repeatedly. And the use of another word instead of human made me wonder if the people were human, except from the way they were described? Okay, I still don't know if they're human.

Despite this, there's some solid worldbuilding in here, an interesting heroine and absolutely no love triangles. He has to get points for that last.

Copy obtained at World Fantasy Con.