Monday, January 18, 2010

Veracity by Laura Bynum

Thanks to Pocket Books’ generosity I’ve had the pleasure to read Veracity by Laura Bynum in a decent amount of time after its release [not years later as it happens with most titles I get to review]. I started reading as soon as possible and the sole act of turning the pages made me oblivious to time’s flow. Few books have that quality [quite commendable], but at the end of the day, when I put the book down there was no happy, contempt buzz that I reached the last page. But I am skipping over myself here. First get a whiff of what this is all about: Harper Adams was six years old in 2012 when an act of viral terrorism wiped out one-half of the country's population. Out of the ashes rose a new government, the Confederation of the Willing, dedicated to maintaining order at any cost. The populace is controlled via government-sanctioned sex and drugs, a brutal police force known as the Blue Coats, and a device called the slate, a mandatory implant that monitors every word a person speaks. To utter a Red-Listed, forbidden word is to risk physical punishment or even death. But there are those who resist. Guided by the fabled "Book of Noah," they are determined to shake the people from their apathy and ignorance, and are prepared to start a war in the name of freedom. The newest member of this resistance is Harper -- a woman driven by memories of a daughter lost, a daughter whose very name was erased by the Red List. And she possesses a power that could make her the underground warriors' ultimate weapon -- or the instrument of their destruction. Let’s focus on the positive and then move down to what did not create the divine spark, I’m in constant search of. First, there is that effortless prose, which comes as a scented breeze and is that essential juicy bite the voracious reader’s imagination has been looking for. Bynum has a special relationship with words and it reflects on her style. I felt engulfed and never looked at the clock to see whether my reading time is over or not [this January, I figured, I had to have an hour by hour schedule], which is invaluable quality for a writer to possess. It’s a hit or miss with plot and general idea, but when one wraps ideas in couture, a miss won’t turn into a train wreck. Not to say that this novel is anywhere close to that term. On the contrary, Veracity is a good story and a fantastic debut. I was won over by the choice of dystopia, upon which Bynum stopped her focus. The idea on its own, that a world without the freedom to express oneself verbally and instead gets death sentence is chilling and ingenious. I’ve yet to encounter a dystopian society built on the logic that a spoken word without distinction what it may be, has lethal potential for the community. Bynum explores this idea, expands it and engineers such a dystopia, with my disbelief firmly suspended. I think there are two more reasons to pick this exact model for her society. First, I believe that Bynum knows that dedicated [obsessive] veteran readers will exhibit stronger reactions due to their heightened adoration for words. I know I did and I’m not even a veteran in the slightest sense. Second, Bynum wants to acknowledge and underline that the spoken word has power and that people should not allow the language to be robbed of its abundance. This was the spectacular, but on the downside, I noted a few aspects that left me cold. I have yet to understand why whenever a story as one man and one woman, this should translate to undying or at least passionate love relationship. Saving society from tyranny and waiting for a war to come, while one’s hiding in a bunker does not even remotely comes close to acceptable circumstances to have the luxury and fall in love. It’s unrealistic and the story itself didn’t allow such a relationship to develop. So why push? Veracity is a well told story, but a story with strong roots in popular culture and one that has an established tradition. Dystopian literature [as awesome as it is] isn’t spacious enough to be able to produce much original material. So, tropes like the resistance [which wishes to pull the plug on the tyrannous regime], the protagonist [who sacrificed his/hers comfortable life for a cause] and the rebels [with questionable alliance] are common and the plot is run-of-the-mill. I haven’t read that many novels in this genre, but I have watched enough movies to get this all too familiar déjà vu. Verdict: I’m going for a solid B grade here. Yeah, sure, Veracity is not out of the box as far as its dependence on archetypical tropes is questioned, but a) it’s one hell of a convincing debut and b) Bynum’s prose is positively enchanting enough to avoid turning this story into a bore fest. Way to go, Laura Bynum. I wish you luck with your next project.

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