The Sky Inside by Clare B Dunkle

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The Sky Inside by Clare B Dunkle

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A clear, elegant Logan's Run style story, ideal for junior sci-fi fans. The questions begged are insightful and the writing is lucid and compelling. Great stuff.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: August 2008
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 1416926100

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Martin lives several generations from now, in metal-roofed domed suburb. Life is very ordered but everyone in his suburb has everything they could possibly want - food, warmth, the latest gadgets, even new, ever-improved genetically-designed babies. Most people don't need to work. It's a real democracy too. Every day, Martin's parents get to vote on the burning issues of the day - what colour curtains the President should have in his office, that kind of thing. Martin's father is quite an important man in the suburb too - he's the Packet Chief, and he supervises everything coming in and going in and out of the area. People don't go in and out unless they die.

But Martin is the inquisitive type and he is beginning to grow more and more curious about how exactly things are being run. Why do the game show contestants never bank their winnings and go home? Why does his father say walls have ears? What are the little bot bugs listening for? And why do they want to take his baby sister away? With the aid of his pet dog Chip, who's actually a modified bot, Martin determines to find out.

Along the lines of Logan's Run and The Truman Show, The Sky Inside paints a very uncomfortable picture of a dystopian future society. The suburb's residents are ruthlessly controlled and product advertising rules the television. It's an incredibly empty, sterile world and Dunkle portrays it with elegance but great menace. It's very easy to read with plenty of narrative drive, making it as suitable for late primary children as it is for those of early to mid secondary age, but the plotting is terrific, absolutely watertight. As Dunkle trails clues to what really lies behind the polished, superficial world of Martin's society, you really can feel the horror mount.

Martin himself is the kind of character many schoolchildren will identify with. He's bright and inquisitive, but he finds lessons boring. He doesn't like being pushed and he feels a bit like a square peg in a round hole. He's also very determined, which makes him tremendously attractive. Some comic relief is supplied by Chip, the robot dog, and there are some beautifully lyrical scenes when Martin does finally make it outside. The book ends on a relatively positive note, which is appropriate to its age range, but may possibly let older teens down a tiny bit.

Highly recommended for character, narrative and style, buy The Sky Inside for all socially conscious sci-fans aged from about ten to fourteen.

My thanks to the nice people at Simon & Schuster for sending the book.

Older children will also enjoy The Inferior by Peadar ó Guilín and Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, both set in future dystopias.

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