Great start yesterday to the first of the August CSFF blog tours, this one featuring Captives by Jill Williamson. Yesterday’s posts included a book give-away; a creative report as if written by someone in the dystopian world of Captives; a well-researched behind-the-scenes look at what led George Orwell to write his dystopian novel, 1984; thoughts on contentment and envy; and a handful of insightful reviews.
I have to say, the books I like best make me think about life and God and human nature and … well, things that matter, things that stay with me long after I’ve put the book down. Captives did that for me.
Yes, this dystopian fantasy is a young adult book, but like so many in that age category, any adult reader can also enjoy the story. In truth, the themes in Captives are mature. Although placed in a futuristic setting, with appropriate technology advances, the story exposes what goes on in the human heart during any decade.
The story also addressed some of today’s cultural issues, not by dressing them up in futuristic garb or by preaching to a point, but by showing the logical extension of the extremes in today’s western society. In an amazingly truthful way, Williamson unveils the existent cultural divide by creating a futuristic world that has even more starkly drawn lines.
For example, one plot thread deals with reproduction. Instead of a story centered on abortion, Williamson created a society that had become infertile and that prized pregnancy. The reversal of today’s reproductive issues actually was disarming and allowed for thoughtful consideration of the value of life.
Other cultural issues–the cult of celebrity, violence as entertainment, self-medication, the worship of appearance–were all addressed in the sense that characters were shown reacting to new stimuli by either accepting it or rejecting it, in part or in total, as they became familiar with the way the opposing society lived.
None of these issues takes over the novel, however. This is still a story about a group of people who have been taken captive by a society that considers itself advanced and benign. Those in the upper echelon can’t imagine why anyone would be opposed to the advantages they offer. They can’t imagine why anyone would not want to work to preserve and protect what they’ve built.
From my perspective, Captives is cutting edge. By taking a futuristic approach, it is so very contemporary. It doesn’t shy away from hard things, and there is no perfect person or point of view. All the characters have blind spots and weaknesses–both societies have problems and suffer consequences as a result.
So much like real life.
Not everyone on the tour is as great a fan of Captives as I am, and that’s good–it balances out my enthusiasm and gives you more to think about. But from my perspective, you can’t go wrong with this one. It might get a little heavy at times, though it’s no where as dark as 1984 or other dystopians. Still, it shows a world suffering under the weight of sin, and that’s not an easy thing to look at.
I personally thought Jill did a good job of balancing out the darkness with some sweet romance. There were even references to my favorite movie, Princess Bride. I found those to lighten a story that could easily have been dragged down by despair.
But again, I encourage you to read what other participants on tour are saying–that balanced view, you know? ;-)