In this YA sci-fi debut, a teen searches for his place in a world ravaged by war and run by otherworldly beings.
By the year 2040, nuclear war had nearly obliterated the Earth. Then the technologically advanced Ancient Ones arrived from a parallel dimension, offering to guide and heal humanity. But 100 years later, things haven’t quite worked out that way. The environment remains despoiled, and the scouts (artificial humanoids) patrol society like benevolent jailers. Fourteen-year-old Hanu has lived at the American Continental Mental Hospital—nicknamed the Flush—for seven years. Here, drugs wash away the patients’ emotions, dreams, and any resistance to a strictly regimented schedule. But Hanu decides not to take his meds. He dreams about strange, robed creatures who tell him, “You’ve allowed fear to cloud your judgment. You will find your strength again.” But when the doctors learn that Hanu isn’t drugged, they send him to the District of Operations in Capital City. There, people suffer a nightmarish override procedure. He and other problematic teens are escorted to the District in a Convoy. Yet, what are their chances of arriving safely when the violent Dissenters—who burn crops, commit murder, and believe the Ancient Ones must be overthrown—have been wreaking havoc everywhere? Fans of dystopian YA novels will find much to love in DeVore’s series opener. The word “district” alone musters dour imagery from the landmark Hunger Games trilogy, though this world is ruined in its own beautiful ways (“They passed by a warped, green, glasslike epicenter where a bomb exploded. Orange scars spiraled outward from it like a giant whirlpool sculpted into the ground”). The origin of the Ancient Ones is a nuanced cautionary tale for generations now inhabiting a planet that grows hotter each year. At her most humanistic, DeVore asserts that “the natural progression of intelligent life...is to grow mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually—all in balance.” There are satisfactory amounts of action, subterfuge, and sacrifice, though the Ancient Ones (among other strange races) feel underused in this first volume. By the end, a revitalized hero promises an amped-up sequel.
A vivid dystopian tale with a truly apocalyptic twist.