“Suddenly I’m seeing exactly how vulnerable our city really is. I feel as if the ground beneath me cracks open like an earthquake and swallows my childhood fairytale of stability, safety, and security, of everything I’ve trusted my future into.”
If you’re a fan of the genre, you know that there’s a ton of really well written, dystopic fiction – particularly in the Young Adult section of your local library – and it often makes its way to your local theater. Everything from kids hunting other kids for sport, to splitting populations up into their major personality characteristic; to roving gangs of teenagers haunting cities, to zombies, werewolves, asteroids and ice ages have all made recent appearances. And – if you’ve been paying attention at all – you might have noticed that the flesh-eating foot-dragger clambering after our heroine is not always as simple as it seems, and that most of the recent batch of post-apocalyptic dystopias can be disected with full literary zeal, if one were to choose to. (Also: If one is a particularly literary geek. You may now point your fingers at me: I don’t mind.)
With an abundance of allegories, and triple the tropes, Claire Vale’s Broken Lies begins her Broken series with a bang ~ plenty of nods to other dystopias, but enough originality to make it worth the read. In her take, Vale has doubled the threat – First the Arctic melted, land started disappearing, and anarchy erupted; then a long-dormant virus, hidden under the Arctic ice, took hold of the population and the Living Corpses – a billion or so of them – were born. What was left of society isolated itself behind whatever walls it could find, and the story opens in what just might be the last city standing – a landlocked island, surrounded/protected by water, which the Corpses avoid at all costs.
Which is were we find our heroine, Lake Devlin, who’s doing her best to live her life inside that city, in her last year of high school, when everything changes for her and her friends. After their ‘graduations’, they’re meant to either join the city’s protective force – The Queen’s Guard (although there’s no longer any Queen), and serve actively for a given term, or get a sort of internship/placement within the city. Returning Guard members get first shot at the best placements, which really winds up making the ‘non-voluntary’ part of enlisting lean a little bit more towards the ‘mandatory’ side of the scale.
Once Lake and her friends have drafted, though, everything begins to change – not just their relationships with each other, and their physical bodies (imagine boot camp geared towards zombie protection, and you can see that they’d be in for a tough haul) – but everything they thought they knew about their world and their place in it.
One thing that Vale does really well is making Lake and her friends seem like realistic 16/17 yr olds: The amount of self doubt Lake has, the relationship squabbles and fumbles, the ‘holy crap am I supposed to decide my whole life right now, and who thought that would be a good idea’ feeling – she nails them all. She’s also pretty great at world building: The reader immediately gets both why this place is the way it is, and why they don’t really want to be there, even if there’s no better alternative. And she can certainly turn a phrase: “I am not just an open book, apparently I splash myself out there all over the cover,” Lake laments after a particularly harrowing encounter with a superior officer.
But I did think the ending was too abrupt (and obvious sequel bait); and I rolled my eyes as she maneuvered the characters into place for full on Team Guy A and Team Guy B territory. Overall, though, I quite enjoyed it, and I’ll be on the lookout for the second in this series.
I got my copy through NetGalley, but if you’re a Kindle unlimited subscriber, it’s available for free right now, and it’s $2.99 otherwise.