Monday, June 30, 2014

Random Reads Review - After the Parch by Sheldon Greene

Author: Sheldon Greene
Release Date: March 1, 2014
Pages: 220
Goodreads Rating: 3.10 Stars
My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
My Content Rating: Adult (Sex, including sex involving a child; Some violence)

Summary from Goodreads: It's 2075. California is nothing like we know it. The USA has broken up and California has become an independent refuge dominated by a single omnipotent corporation. Eighteen-year-old Bran, a shepherd, is given a mission to traverse the California republic in ten days, in order to save his rural community from forfeiting its land. On the way, he teams up with a seventeen-year-old girl who has the skills and prowess of a warrior, an eleven-year-old wild boy with uncanny survival skills, and a wandering musician with a secret revolutionary agenda. 

After the Parch is a fast-paced, vivid, dystopian fantasy with a chilling resemblance to the way we are, and a vision of what we might become. 

This is one of those books that's a little bit hard for me to review because there was nothing tangible that held me back from really enjoying it, but I just didn't connect with the characters as well as I wanted to.

The story follows Bran as he travels to purchase the rights to the land his people live on before a mining company takes over.  The book takes place in the future after a worldwide drought has caused chaos.  Bran has lived most of his life in a small self-sustaining community and has been taught to trust no one on the outside.  But when his journey goes wrong, he finds that he has to depend on strangers if he wants to complete his task - and survive.

The negatives:
  • Lack of connection.  Like I said, the main reason that this book doesn't get a higher rating from me was because I just didn't connect to the characters all that much.  I'm not exactly sure why.  I think that the characters were relatively well-developed, but I just didn't empathize with them.  I wish that I could give solid reasoning why, but unfortunately, this was just one of those cases when I can't really define the issue.  I simply didn't feel anything for these characters much of the time (at least not strongly). June was the one exception to this.
  • Attitude about sex.  Sex is handled very cavalierly in this book.  In this version of the future, re-population is important, so sex is seen as something necessary and natural.  I suppose I understand this, but I just wasn't crazy about it.  At one point an 11-year-old boy has sex and it's noted with little comment (a slight thought that he was kind of young).  Bran has sex with June (the girl who is traveling with them - who was being prepared to be a prostitute) even though he's supposedly devoted to his mate back home.  He says that the sex doesn't matter, but then also wonders what his mate would think if she saw him - and June obviously feels something for Bran.  I just couldn't quite get on board with the idea that sex meant nothing.
What I enjoyed:
  • The worldbuilding. I thought that Greene created an interesting dystopian world and did a good job at worldbuilding.  The breakdown of the government felt realistic and there was plenty of explanation about how the world got to its current state.
  • June.  June (the 17-year-old girl who is mentioned in the synopsis) is the one character in this book who I truly liked.  She had spunk, strength and character.  She had been in an interesting environment - on the one hand, she was educated and fed and treated well, but she was being groomed to basically be sold to a man.  In this dystopian society some girls might have been happy to be taken care of, but June wanted her freedom.  But she was also willing to risk that freedom to help Bran and the others in their group.  June wasn't perfect, but she was trying her best in a world with few options.  June was the one character in the book that I truly cared about.
  • The ending.  The ending of this book is sort of introspective, leaving Bran with some lessons learned and a new sense of what it means to be a citizen of the world.  I really liked the note that the book ended on.  It has stayed with me.  I liked the overall message that Greene put forth in the book - that we cannot stand alone, or even just in our own little communities, that we need to reach out and think about the needs of others - even those we may not know and may never know.  A worthy message.
So, overall, I enjoyed this book, but I would have enjoyed it more if Greene had been able to give me a deeper connection to his characters.  I give After the Parch 3.5/5 stars.

***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given. All opinions are my own***