by Julianna BaggottThe second book in the Pure trilogy is a little disorienting to begin with. It's been about a year since I read Pure, and I could have done with a little more recapping so I could re-familiarise myself with some of the characters and events in this post-apocalyptic wasteland.
The story starts with Wilda, a young girl who is found outside the Dome. She's been cured of all her fusings and made Pure, but she's only able to repeat one message:
"We want our son returned. This girl is proof that we can save you all. If you ignore our plea, we will kill our hostages one at a time."
The son in question, Partridge, is starting to feel like he's exchanged one prison for another. He's in the custody of the Mothers, a fearsome group of women who are often fused to their stunted children. The mothers blame men for the disaster and refer to them as Deaths. They won't let Partridge get close to Lyda, his girlfriend and a fellow Pure. He wants to return to the Dome to lead a revolt against his father, Willux, who he believes to be a mass murderer. Willux is dying, but if he discovers a cure for his Rapid Cell Degeneration, Partridge may never be able to oust him.
The wretches living around the Dome are set upon by robotic spiders, but there are still those who trust blindly in the Dome's benevolence. Meanwhile Pressia, the girl with the doll-head hand, is busy trying to unlock the secrets of the precious serum and the black box she's come into possession of. In the company of Bradwell, El Capitan and his fused brother Helmud they're on the move over some very dangerous terrain. They're looking for a formula, and answers that explain the mystery of the past and the Detonations. The puzzle is fiendish, and I really enjoyed the intricate way it unfolded. The whole story gets more twisty the further it goes on.
Ellery Willux seems mad, but he's more complex than an out-and-out tyrant and sadist. There's a part of Partridge that seems to want his father's approval, even when he knows the truth and he realises how he has been manipulated. There's a shocking contrast between the savagery outside the Dome and the calm, frivolous civilisation within it. Outside, even the plants and the soil rise up and try to kill people. It's the exact reverse of the situation within people's hearts, where it's the Dome-dwellers who are the most vicious.
One thing I noticed about the point-of-view characters is that they all have a similar style of thinking. They're all very serious, thoughtful, and often a bit naive. For almost all of the characters denial is a major characteristic, whether they're cast as heroes, villains, or victims. The people in Fuse are desperate to believe the propaganda of the Dome, and to look the other way when awful things happen. And this novel has no shortage of horror and strangeness. I found it compelling reading, not just because of the complex puzzles, but also because I wanted the tragic and damaged characters to succeed against the odds.
18th March 2013
Review © Ros Jackson