Thursday, September 14, 2017

The List

Title:  The List
Author:  Patricia Forde
Publication Information:  Sourcebooks. 2017. 336 pages.
ISBN:  1492647969 / 978-1492647966

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Smith Fearful was a scavenger."

Favorite Quote:  "Without words, we will be imprisoned in the here and now forever ... The here and now is only the smallest part of who were are. Each of us is all that we have been, all our stories, all that we could be."

The List is a middle grade book that is based on the interesting premise that if you control people's ability to communicate, you control their actions and hence their impact on the world. Limits communication and you limit an individual's ability to influence their environment.

The List is set in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian world where man's abuse of Earth has caused The Melting, a literal melting of the polar ice caps. One man, Noa, saw it coming and successfully built a place called the Ark. The names in this book are not the most creative ones, but perhaps that is because it is geared towards a younger audience, and more obvious connections influence comprehension.

Noa seeks to create a world - to save the world - but according to his rules. Control and force are the source of his power. A key tenet of the Ark is to limit communication. Music and the arts have been forbidden. Language itself is limited to, as you might guess from the title, a list. The list is about 500 words but getting shorter by Noa's decree. Certain professions have additional words specific to their work, but those are to be used only by specific people and in specific circumstances. Beyond that, words are whittled down to what Noa considers the essentials.

Benjamin is the wordsmith of the Ark. His job is to collect errant words and be the keeper of the list. Letter (makes me think letter?) is his twelve year old apprentice. As often happens in such books, her childhood has a tragic story. Sadly, in his word searching, Benjamin disappears, and Letta becomes the official wordsmith.

Of course, she learns that things are not always what they seem in the Ark, and that the individual viewed as the savior of this community may have other plans. Conflict between the two sides persists.  Note that the book does have scenes of violence and some descriptions of torture. Parents and teachers should determine its appropriateness for their middle grade audience.

As a adult reading the book, the story has two competing forces - the power and love of language and the environmental statement on the destruction of Earth by man. It is the environmental message that is at the heart of this book. Language is a means to control man towards Noa's environmental goals. Interestingly, for a book with a strong environmental message, the story includes no real if age-appropriate scientific information. Only one character is depicted as a scientist, and he exists on the periphery of the Ark society.

In fact, in a story of the past, Benjamin tells Letta about how "they [scientists] were seen as the enemy, the people who had opposed the Green Warriors before the Melting. There was no place for them in Ark." It is unclear how to balance that with the fact that current science is pointing out the dangers of man's abuse of earth. It is, in fact, the scientists leading the charge for environmental protection, and others who undermine science. On that point, the story may be confusing for a young audience. Which side is science on?

What I do leave the book with is the love and necessity of language. I can't imagine limiting it to a list. I can, however, imagine being a wordsmith whose life's work is to gather words.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment