Monday, February 11, 2013

Review: Dualed

Synopsis: The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.

Elsie Chapman's suspenseful YA debut weaves unexpected romance into a novel full of fast-paced action and thought-provoking philosophy. When the story ends, discussions will begin about this future society where every adult is a murderer and every child knows there is another out there who just might be better.

My Review: Going into this novel based on the synopsis I was expecting a plot line that was completely different from what it actually ended up being. I had this expectation in my mind of how this story was going to play out, and I have to say I was completely off. Not that this was a bad thing, but I definitely had different expectations going into this novel. 

In a semi- post apocalyptic setting where medical advances, or rather blunders, have made humanity infertile, geneticists are able to artificially create life. Since life is such a precious commodity societies views have drastically shifted. You only get to live if you deserve it. Each person is created with a genetic duplicate, a virtual twin, that between the ages of 10-20, one of them has to prove their worth and kill their doppelganger.

West has lost all of her family over the years. She's only 15 and the only person she has left in the world is her brother. The harsh realities of her life were sometimes difficult but she faced every heartbreak and problem with a brave face and a stubborn attitude. That is until her brother dies. West's world is crumbling down around her, and the only thing she can do to keep her head above water is to turn to illegal means. West becomes a Striker, basically a hired assassin that kills others duplicates for them. If the government finds out she'll be killed, and she's ostracized by the rest of the population because she essentially helps people cheat their way to living. West even comes to enjoy her job to a certain extent. There's a certain level of pride to being an assassin. That is until she gets activated herself and is suddenly a target for her own doppelganger.  Suddenly West is thrown in the world that up until that point, she's only been an observer to.  Now she is the one on the run, being hunted, with only 30 days to kill or be killed.  
I have to say that the one thing that truly astonished me about this novel was the lack of moral confliction with West.  Yes, this is a kill or be killed world, but she's not just out to survive herself, she is killing others for money.  And she doesn't feel an ounce of guilt or confliction over her actions.  The most reflection we get on the matter is "that was a sloppy kill, I should have hit my mark on the first shot." She doesn't revel in killing people, to her, it is a job.  Nothing more. And death is so ingrained into this society it's rather disturbing to think about.  The whole "survival of the fittest" Mathus attitude towards life is really taken to a new extreme in this world.  But what really got me was that I wanted West to feel conflicted because I felt that she SHOULD be, ya know? But when it got right down to it, you are rooting for her to just kill her duplicate already.  And that's just the thing.  Every single character in this novel who is not a "complete" has another version of themselves out there.  Yet the author not once mentions these alternates' names.  They are faceless lurking presences in all of the character's minds, who will one day try and come and kill them.  Despite that they are both put in this situation and they're being manipulated, the character's "other" self is always viewed as the bad guy.   It was just interesting to read and was rather thought provoking to view society in that manner.

As far as plotting went, the pace of this novel wasn't your typical fare.  I still enjoyed the pace of the story, but I felt like it had some major time jumps that took you a while to get used to.  And like I said before, my initial thoughts on how this story was going to play out were completely wrong.  But it was a good twist.  The story kept you on your toys and you never really knew what to expect next.  The one thing I will say constructively about this novel is that the world building could really use some work.  A vague medical condition causing infertility.  A faceless evil government that is making the population kill each other for a place in a perfect world.  A briefly mentioned war and a small section of the US closing itself off to the rest of the world.  And altogether in the end, I'd say that nothing was resolved on a grand scale.  I got done with the book and I was like, okay well that went nowhere.  The story had no deeper level of meaning.  I just wanted MORE.  More thought, more detail, more information. 

Will there be a sequel? I have no idea.  Honestly I don't know what could possibly constitute the requirment to continue on with that story. Yet at the same time, I just feel like so many things were unresolved. Do I really care? Not really.  If there is more to come with this story then I probably won't continue to read it.  Good idea, some pretty thought provoking philosophical concepts, and yet can't say that I wasn't too enthralled by the story.