Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ally Condie's Matched: The Manchurian Manuscript?

Cover of Ally Condie's book MatchedLike a fool, I fell for the line that Matched, by Ally Condie, was the "new Hunger Games." Statements like this are always best taken with a grain of salt, I know, but I was curious.

While there are several things I don't like about The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, as far as I can tell from Matched, this new series is nowhere near as compelling or worthwhile. In fact, I strongly suspect its Mormon author, Ally Condie, will take the narrative arc in an almost-proselytizing direction.

Matched takes place in a post-U.S. society that is completely controlled by a centralized government, taken to absurdist levels. For instance, every person's food, specialized for specific nutritional needs, is sent for each meal, hot and ready to eat. A brief mention is made of a system of transportation behind the houses that distributes the "foilware." But, please, is that even physically possible?

The premise of the book appears to be that peak oil is well past and the planet has warmed, leading to some type of tremendous social change. But does it seem likely that the outcome would be yet another antiseptic suburban setting, with each family in its separate house with yard? (At least Mockingjay's District 13 populace has to live in the type of tight quarters you'd expect for people who are living close to the edge.)

And what's with the fact that every single person in the book is white? Will this turn out to be part of the plot as the story continues in future books? Even if it is, I don't have patience for it.

The whole book feels shallow: the characters have as much meat as one of the freeze-dried dinners they have to eat. One could argue that it's shallow because the main character is young and shallow herself, but a better storyteller could have overcome this.

There are hundreds if not thousands of excellent science fiction books out there, many exploring fascinating futures that raise substantive questions about where our world is headed. If you want a YA book that takes on the idea of the nanny state, for instance, try Pete Hautman's Rash.

Meanwhile, I'll have to wait for the next two sequels to Allie Condie's Matched to find out if it's actually the thin excuse for a religious and political agenda that I suspect it is.


KLM said...

Now I'm going to have to read it. Just because I'm hearing both lots of "it's awesome" hype, countered by several reviews like yours.

What's that called, when you read a book because you want to let the air out of all the over-the-top promotional blather?

Negatively induced interest?

Daughter Number Three said...

Premeditated literary deflation?

Daughter Number Three said...

By the way, I'd love to get the links to other reviews you've read. (Especially the less-than-positive ones.)