CM . . .
. Volume XVIIII Number 2. . . .September 14, 2012
As a favour at the House of Gear in the Partytainment District, Bright is only concerned with being the most fun, having the most cutting-edge accessories and the newest, trendiest look. That is the goal of every favour at every house: to be the one that clients clamor to spend their credits on as they vie for the chance to party with the hottest favour. But Bright is somehow never able to keep up with her dressing-mate Fon who is the runaway favourite amongst the eager clients at the House of Gear. Nevertheless, she still has her sights set on a loftier goal: to be accepted to the super-elite House of It.
Meanwhile, while the clients and favours and other residents of this entertainment-obsessed world are absorbed with their parties and having fun at all costs, Grassly struggles in secret to perfect his light, the invention that he has designed to save these people from themselves. As his own special coming-of-age project (an important tradition amongst his people), Grassly has chosen to rescue these humans who are on the brink of extinction (although they don’t realize it) and to relocate them to a new planet. To do so, he has been developing a light that will encourage their “migratory instinct” and lead them to his ship. When Bright accidentally finds herself wielding Grassly’s light, she and Fon become his unwitting accomplices. As Grassly gradually reveals the truth about her world and his plans for her people, Bright refuses to believe him – until she is unable to deny or ignore that truth any longer. But Grassly’s well-intentioned plans have many unanticipated consequences that soon spiral out of control, and Bright and Fon find themselves in a desperate race to save themselves, Grassly and everyone else on the planet.
With its utterly original and wackily outrageous premise, Susan Juby’s latest offering treats readers to the offbeat humour that they have come to expect from her in a tale that is unlike anything else she has written. The state of the world that she describes, with its over-the-top obsession with appearances and the willing blindness of its citizens to recognize what was truly going on, manages to, in spite of its preposterousness, paint an eerie picture of where our society of excesses could lead. As ridiculously superficial as this world seems, Bright’s growing awareness of the true state of things and of the ways in which they are all being manipulated leads readers to ultimately root for their survival. Although it takes a while to connect with Bright as a character, she does become increasingly sympathetic, and the evolution of her relationship with Fon is entertaining. Grassly is perhaps the most likeable and relatable character, and the concept of him plotting to rescue and relocate all the citizens of earth as a sort of rite of passage is a fascinating conceit.
However, the description of the two worlds and its inhabitants is very confusing and difficult to follow until the reader is well into the book. Juby portrays the world that Bright lives in as an exceedingly superficial one that is focused almost exclusively on an insatiable desire for constant amusement. But beyond that, there is very little sense of how or why the world came to be this way, and why the powers that be want it to remain thus. The overall idea of the story is appealing, and the alternating viewpoints of Bright and Grassly provide an intriguing way to tell that story, but it is difficult to grasp what is going on in the opening chapters, making it challenging to get into the story. Juby has succeeded in creating a book that is quite unlike any of the other dystopian or science fiction novels currently out there. She was less successful in creating a fully-realized world that readers could visualize and readily comprehend.
Lisa is Co-Manager of Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax, NS.
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