I have been fortunate to receive quite a few ARE/ARCs of books recently. This is an extended review of one of them that I received from a Shelf Awareness giveaway. The second review is the second in the series. (There may be spoilers in these extended reviews, but I have tried to limit them.)
The City Center
by Simone Pond
Published by Ktown Waters Publishing
Los Angeles, California, 2013
This is a speculative, dystopian novel that leaves the reader thinking about just how plausible that these events might be. Further, the reader wonders about the possibilities of such events occurring. Designer people? People bred without emotions or thoughts of their own? Controlling people who are in charge?
Set in the future, it is several hundred years after a man-made apocalypse in which elitists killed off a majority of the population. They divided the world into the Insiders and Outsiders. Insiders have been selected to live within the closed off City Center, and the Outsiders are rebels (and terrorists) scraping by in the toxic world beyond those walls. The Insiders are constantly cautioned and controlled regarding the evils that lurk outside their comfortable lives.
Yet Ava Rhodes, the protagonist, doesn’t quite fit into the mold for which she has been created. As Graduation Day approaches, she is slated to be the next Queen of City Center, but rebels at being that perfect person. She’d rather watch old movies (like Roman Holiday) with her friend Delilah, a person on the second tier of society. During stolen time away from her Handlers, she encounters Joseph, an Outsider (and presumed terrorist) who has broken into City Center. Joseph’s role in her life is such that he may just open her eyes to the truth of what her utopian City Center really is.
When she learns the truth, will she able to escape her destiny as the next Queen? Will she continue the life she is expected to lead for the next eighteen years before being retired to Ret-Hav, the island paradise? Or will she help fashion the changes that will bring about new life to the City Center?
This novel is a thoughtful look at what it means to be fully human. Moreover, it is not a typical dystopian story as there are moments that exhibit grace and compassion. It is definitely worth checking out.
The New Agenda
by Simone Pond
Published by Ktown Waters Publishing, June 2014
Touted as a prequel, this continues the story started in The City Center. It is not exactly a prequel, but it does explain the back-story of Chief Morray, the ruler of City Center. Ava, the protagonist of the first book, is attempting to locate Morray, the leader who escaped. Going to the library archives daily, she reads the history of Morray so that she can rid the world of the man who caused the genocide of so many people. To her, knowledge means the safety of all those she holds dear like her husband Joseph and her daughter Grace. Only by learning as much about him as she can will she be able to figure out where he could be and destroy him.
The story is told in a series of data files where new characters are introduced, and old characters reappear. William Morray is first introduced to the reader through these digital recordings. He is the son of Morray, the architect of what is called the Repatterning, the systematic killing off of anyone who doesn’t measure up to a standard of perfection. William is a troubled, disenfranchised teen. His father is always disappointed with him. His mother is more interested in her lover, Dickson, than her own son. He is bullied by his peers. He prefers his solitude, riding his skateboard, and escaping into drug-induced hazes. Yet, despite this, he craves his father’s love, attention, and approval. He wants to help with the formation of the utopia known as the City Center.
Ostensibly, as the final phases of the Repatterning are gearing up, Morray decides to send William and his wife away to protect them. He knows that more people will be killed as areas of the city are demolished. He knows that the outer realms have become lawless; thus, he sends them to the Denver Subterranea, an underground facility to live among the chosen people until the Repatterning is complete.
Throughout, the reader learns what is really happening. Through William’s eyes, the reader learns the truth about Morray and the changes brought about by Dickson and Morray that lead to the events in the first book, and basically what makes Morray, Morray.
Although The New Agenda could be read first, don’t. Read them in the order, and let the story unfold, the mystery be revealed. Read The City Center first. This second book in this post-apocalyptic, dystopian world is a perfectly balanced set-up for further episodes (or so it is hoped).