Science fiction and fantasy

The Farm

by Emily McKay


The Farm takes place in an America blighted by mindless vampires known as Ticks. Teenagers are kept in converted schools known as farms, surrounded by big barriers that are supposed to be to keep the Ticks out, but also effectively trap them. They are far from out of harm's way. Those on the Farm are divided between Greens, Breeders and Collabs. The Collabs are bullies who keep everyone else in line, whilst the pregnant Breeders are exempt from donating blood. Lily and her twin sister Mel are Greens, which is presumably named after Soylent Green because they're like human cattle. Although they're very well fed they're constantly drained of blood, which is taken away to feed their vampire masters.

The regime is very strict. Anyone who falls out of line is sent to the Dean's office, and few survive his punishments. People who misbehave are often staked outside for the Ticks to come and eat when they wake each night, and their screams while they wait for the inevitable are a warning to everyone else. However Lily and Mel are approaching their eighteenth birthday, and none of the inmates know what happens to people after they pass that age. Figuring it can't be anything good, the sisters have made plans to escape. Lily's plans are disrupted by the arrival of Carter, a boy from her past who she used to have a crush on. Carter is being treated like any other Green, but he has impressive combat and survival skills and some kind of secret plan. Lily finds herself falling for him all over again, but she isn't sure she can trust him. The last time she did, it didn't end well.

Then there's Mel, who has autism. Lily thinks Mel is very vulnerable since the trauma of life on the Farm has made her regress, to the point that she barely speaks. Lily is focused on protecting her sister.

The story is told from three points of view: Carter's, Lily's, and Mel's. I wasn't sure about this, because it gives away a few of the surprises. So we learn in the third chapter that Mel is like still water that runs deep, and not even her twin sister is aware of her capabilities. Mel has problems with crowds, speech, and socialising, and she relies on familiar objects and routines to ground her. On one level she's characteristically autistic, but she can also be disconcertingly strange in ways that have nothing to do with her condition. As such she's the hardest character to connect with, although the aspects of her personality that relate to autism are credible.

As you might expect with a world full of marauding vampires, there's plenty of action. Although there's more than one type of vampire none of them are of the romantic and debonair persuasion. Instead gore and brutality abound, and The Farm certainly requires a strong stomach. The characters even make fun of the Twilight brand of sparkly. soppy undead.

I liked the idea of the abductura, which is a person with the power to project their emotions on to everyone else. Carter and his friend Sebastian are searching for one of these powerful people. The abductura is like a teenager cubed, a maelstrom of emotions. This means the novel is full of people over-reacting, and although they often have good cause to freak out this device explains neatly why their feelings are so often intensified.

The relationship between Carter and Lily is a little obvious, especially as we often see it from his point of view. However there are some intriguing twists as Lily and Mel make their bid for freedom. This is a well-paced, rip-roaring adventure that's far more horrific than sweet. Lily and Mel may be desperate to escape The Farm, but I would be happy to stay for a sequel.

11th February 2013

Book Details

Year of release: 2013

Categories: Books
Not For The Squeamish

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