Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Pure - Julianna Baggott

Pure is a book set in the harrowing aftermath of a global cataclysm; its world is typically a bleak and empty one. The shattered remnants of the local authorities are engaged in child snatching for sinister reasons; the cities are shattered ruins, the land and water poisoned and, in some cases, actively hostile. The survivors shown to us in the text are just that - unflinchingly portrayed as barely eking out an existence, all crippled, physically and spiritually, by their continued existence in a world which has largely been reduced to a wasteland.

In contrast to the physical bleakness of the survivors world the reader is given The Dome, a sealed environment which the devastation, somehow, did not touch. The people inside are clean, healthy, and happy - at least physically. The Dome exerts a pull over the minds of the survivors outside, a mixture of rage, hope and fascination which the author captures magnificently.

And into these intermingled worlds, of the Dome and the shattered outside, are thrown several teenagers, all of whom are struggling to define, in some way or other, who they are, and if what they believe about the world is true.

The author manages to write a remarkably compelling piece; I came in expecting a fairly typical coming-of-age novel with a little dystopian flavour, and came away in parts intrigued, disgusted and harrowed. This examination of a society after a nuclear firestorm is compellingly unflinching. The central characters carry a little of the `teen adventurer' about them, but this is gradually filed off as they move through the world. This text is, in some parts, an exploration of social, psychic and physical damage - and there isn't too much room there for the titular `Pure'.

I won't give the story away, but will note that it starts off rather slowly, gradually acclimatising the reader to the characters and their new world(s) , before ratcheting up to a surprisingly tense and fast-paced second half. The prose itself is well conveyed, the language clear and concise, with each character a unique voice - even the minor characters seem unique.

My only (slight) complaint was the discovery at the close of the text that it is to be part of a series; however, it works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel, so this is really a minor issue.

Overall, this is a wonderful portrayal of a shattered world, the death and growth of hope, and the capacity of humanity to perpetrate great acts of evil, and small acts of good. Certainly worth the read - just don't expect to have an easy time of it.

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