Legend by Marie Lu
|Legend by Marie Lu|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Highly commercial, pacy dystopian thriller that comes with a Facebook game and a book detail. I love dystopian fiction and thoroughly enjoyed it, but serious readers should note that this isn't a good book.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: February 2012|
|External links: Author's website|
California. 2130 AD. The Republic of America is engaged in a vicious war with the Colonies. Life is hard for many in the Republic: plague terrorises millions in the slums while all resources are targetted at the military class. The regime is authoritarian and ruthless but the population believes that the constant struggle against a vicious enemy means that it has to be. All citizens undergo the Trial during adolescence. A high score means military college followed by privilege. A low score means life in the slums working in factories. A fail sends you to forced labour camps from which nobody ever returns.
Day failed his Trial but escaped transport to the camps and operates a guerilla campaign of vandalism against the state. June is the only person ever to have achieved a perfect score and she is about to embark on a fast-track career in the military. When her brother dies at Day's hands, June is sent to track him down. As their paths collide, both Day and June are about to discover secrets about the Republic that will challenge everything they ever thought they knew...
Lord. Yet another entrant into the overheated dystopian market. I say Lord but I love this genre, so Yippee! wasn't far away either. Novels have fashions, and like most fashions, they go from the original and creative, to the commercial but high quality, to the write-by-numbers template. The current trend for dystopia began with wonderful books that had something profound to say about the human condition, such as The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness or used it to illustrate a current theme, such as longevity and population control in The Declaration by Gemma Malley. It then moved on to high-quality, plot-driven commercial novels, such as The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. And now we're beginning to find ourselves in the write-by-numbers phase.
So, how does Legend fit in? Well, it uses all the familiar tropes: evil government, propaganda, super-talented central characters, the fight against The Man. You'll be able to watch the film. You can play the Facebook game. You can participate in all sorts of Legend-related social networking. The action is fast and furious and Lu writes with quite a bit of style and panache. It's an easy, quick and exciting read and if that's what you're looking for, you'll find it satisfying. But...
and there are quite a few buts...
... the worldbuilding is, at best, perfunctory. All we really know about the Republic is that it's bad. We don't really know anything at all about the Colonies aside from one or two hints. The main characters are pretty much stocks: super-talented, super-beautiful, courageous, rash and - obviously - destined to fall in lurve. The plot twists are heavily signalled and there isn't really any depth of theme. It's just good (and pretty) vs bad (and ruthless). And there's just nothing new to see here at all. Legend may form part of the body of dystopian fiction being published just now, but it doesn't add anything we haven't seen before.
Even with all this carping, fans of this genre will enjoy Legend. I certainly did, devouring it in one, rather breathless, sitting. And I bet the film's a hit.
The obvious further reading is the equally commercial and very good The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. But you'll all know that series! We loved The Inferior by Peadar ó Guilín, which has a touch of The Truman Show about it and also Bad Faith by Gillian Philip, which deals with religious fundamentalism. Oh, and The Declaration by Gemma Malley which struggles with the idea of population control.
You can read more book reviews or buy Legend by Marie Lu at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Legend by Marie Lu at Amazon.com.
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