Today’s book is free on Kindle for Monday, and then discounted the rest of the week. So, the book review gets jumped to the front of the week.
Dystopian fiction is one of the major players in the “young adult” book space these days. Put shortly, these types of books present a world that has not gone well and has the main characters dealing with that reality. Whether that says good things about our society or not is a discussion for the long-term, but I have my doubts—rather than a hopeful view of the future, we seem to be taking a dim view of the likely outcomes.
Dystopian fiction typically picks up on the specific fears or concerns of the author. Thus, some show an environmental collapse while others show violence and war. The First Principle, today’s book, takes a look at the collapse of religious freedom.
Marissa Shrock’s novel is set in a future world where the United States has collapsed into a consortium of regions. Her main character, Vivica, is the daughter of one region’s governor. The situation of religious freedom and government tyranny moves up close and personal to Vivica—and we see how she responds.
How well does Shrock execute this?
1. Believability of the setting: there is no future projection here that is too far to believe. The idea of a government-approved Bible “version” that is sanitized of all controversy fits some current trends in public religion. The use of public schooling to automatically force-deliver birth control and deal with teen pregnancy is perhaps a stretch, and perhaps not.
2. Believability of the plot: teenage girls and boys get into trouble? People rebel against an oppressive government? One can believe that.
3. Believability of the characters: you have a teenage boy who is struggling with living his faith and having been sexually active. That’s real. The other characters? Skeezy politicians? Yep. Sacrificial and hypocritical people? Indeed.
4. Believability of the events: there’s one event that I think strains credibility, because I have been present at the birth of three children. I think a scene where an individual gives birth but then carries on without much difficulty? Without immediate and present medical care? It doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the setting, where there is an attempt to pamper over and medically control everything, that an individual would have that ability.
Beyond that, the rest seems to fit well.
Appropriateness? This is a “young adult” novel, so it’s aimed into the teenage market. I think that’s a good aim, but I’d watch the low-side of the ages. If they are already reading works like The Hunger Games, then there’s no new innocence lost in thinking through this dystopia. If you haven’t gotten there yet, then waiting another year won’t hurt.
Is it smooth to read? Yes. One can definitely knock back a chapter or two at a sitting and keep up with the plot line. In all, a good book. I am curious to see how the series develops from this starting point.
The First Principle is by Marissa Shrock. Learn more about her here, at her website.
(Free book in exchange for the review. See the dates in the graphic above for when it’s available on sale from Kregel.)