Friday, 4 September 2009
REVIEW: THE RESISTANCE - GEMMA MALLEY
From book cover: The year is 2140. Peter and Anna are living as ‘Legals’ but continue to rebel against the laws of the state. Impatient to see action as an agent in the Underground, Peter is tasked with infiltrating the Pincent Pharma corporation to find out what’s going on in the secret Longevity programme.
To do this Peter must feign a reconciliation with his grandfather, Richard Pincent, one of the most powerful men on the planet, whose company is chasing the holy grail of modern science - a drug which will reverse the effects of ageing. But his grandfather has his own plans for Peter and Anna. Plans that threaten the young couple’s dreams for the future.
In The Declaration, Gemma Malley introduced us to Anna Covey and the life of a surplus - a child born illegally into a future society where the Longevity drug allows human beings to live forever, and reproduction is forbidden. In The Resistance, the focus is on Anna’s boyfriend Peter, grandson of Richard Pincent - the owner of the company that manufactures Longevity. Working undercover at Pincent Pharma on behalf of the Underground, Peter makes discoveries about his grandfather’s company that put his relationship with Anna - and his determination to ‘opt out’ of Longevity - to the test.
When it comes to speculative fiction, I’m all about the world-building. The Declaration demonstrated the Gemma Malley can world-build with the best of ’em, and in The Resistance we get to see more of the world outside of the Surplus Hall that Anna grew up in. There’s a real completeness of vision in this instalment of the story, in terms of everything from the environmental implications of human beings living indefinitely, to the boredom these humans feel with all this time on their hands and no major life events to structure it. It’s also a lonely world; Jude, one of the few ‘legal’ young people, spends time in a virtual reality program populated with other young people - rather than venture out into his real world, where he’s not wanted.
The only aspect of The Resistance I’m not so keen on is the seriousness of the relationship between Peter and Anna, who are living together as a couple when the book opens. Sure, it makes a kind of sense: they’re all each other has, and it’s not like they can play the field. However, in a book that champions the natural cycle of human life, I thought it was a pity at times that at sixteen, the leads had to be so darn mature. Don’t get me wrong, their determination to have children together makes sense in terms of the story, and it works considering there’s no teenage culture in their world… it’s just that I like my YA with a little more coming-of-ageness. Peter and Anna are pretty much already there.
Ultimately, The Resistance is a darker read than the previous instalment, even shocking in parts, and it packs more of punch. Richard Pincent might border on being a pantomime villain at times, but Peter is a complex and convincing hero, and readers will find it easy to empathise with him. On a personal note, I loved the fact that Gemma Malley chose a well-known London building (Battersea Power Station) as the setting for the Pincent Pharma factory - there’s something wonderfully eerie about speculative fiction using familiar landmarks, isn’t there?
I’d recommend this book for anyone who likes a dystopia. You’ll need to read The Declaration first, to fully appreciate this one. Luckily that’s good too.