Review, Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Review of Article 5 (Article 5 #1) by Kristen Simmons

Today, as part of Sci-Fi Month, I have a review of Article 5 by Kristen Simmons. Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

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3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

First it was vampires and werewolves, now it’s dystopian fiction. Each trend in YA fiction produces a wide number of new series and standalones, some stand-out, some awful and others somewhere in between. This book is sadly one of the latter.

I had quite high hopes for this book. I just find dystopian fiction really fascinating – forget zombies, werewolves, vampires, aliens – what’s scariest to me is the human race. How, in this sort of fiction, we turn on one another, destroy each other, become our own worst nightmares. For our modern day societies so focused on and obsessed with freedom, their dystopian equivalents become the total opposite. So I tend to read a lot of it – or at least plan to!

Although the world is nicely built, the statutes are pretty horrific and it works really well as a  dystopian nightmare, there just isn’t enough explanation as to how the world got this way. Whilst I understand that this is just the first book in a series and the explanation may appear in later books, I really feel that at least some of the background behind it should have been explained. How did the Moral Militia come about? Why are the sexes so strongly segregated? How long have things been this way? And why oh why do people follow all these rules and not make a noise?

However, this is a dystopian where the main character really suffers at times. Ember is treated quite horrifically – many of these sorts of books tend to skip or glaze over such things, particularly when it comes to the main characters, so you never get a real feeling of how bad the situation actually is. But this time we see her treatment first hand and the reader really realises how backwards this world is – everything that people are fighting for in our modern day world e.g. gay marriage, religious freedom etc, is destroyed and they are very much back to basics.

What would have made the book even more gut-wrenching? A likeable main character. Ember just really frustrated me. She couldn’t see that Chase was trying to help her and sacrificed a lot just to get to her; she threw so much back in his face and acted like a total spoiled brat. The romance was very much chock-a-block full of teen angst, and I preferred Chase as a character by far. The flashbacks to their previous relationship added a nice touch, but Ember’s reaction to Chase and her behaviour around him after was really odd. I get that she thinks he is a completely different person and not the boy she fell in love with, but I just didn’t see any sort of link or chemistry between them whatsoever. It also annoyed me that she seemed to have a total lack of sense, especially considering the sort of world she lives in. If someone comes at you with a weapon, you defend yourself. She can’t bring herself to hurt others in self-defence – which some may seem as a redeeming character trait – but I see as pure foolishness, especially when you consider what she’s gone through to get where she is. In a dystopian universe I’d expect people to have better survival instincts. But luckily, by the end of the novel she finally realises she can’t just mope around and she actually has to do something. Which slightly redeemed her in my eyes, but she’s still got a long way to go!

I actually read the entire book on the train to York – a four and a half hour journey. It was an easy read and whilst enjoyable, suffers from a case of ‘Annoying-Main-Character-itis’ and a total lack of chemistry when it comes to the romance. Although props to Kristen Simmons for really demonstrating with her main character just how awful this dystopian world is – I just wish she’d explained how it got that way.

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