Thursday, 2 May 2013

Review: The Burning of Cherry Hill, by AK Butler

This was Book of the Month over at the Indie Book Club on Goodreads. Not fantasy, but dystopian/sci-fi. It's slightly out of my usual genre, but I've read 1984 and Brave New World, (and have read a little about Iron Heel and We), so I didn't feel lost by the dystopian approach.

The first person protagonist is Zay, a teenager. He and his sister, Lina, are growing up on Block Island, which is a low tech but rather charming place. But it does not stay that way for long. An invading force brutalises their parents and kidnaps the children. They're taken to the mainland and placed into a seemingly civilised adoption system.

The culture shock of shifting from a world with practically no technology to a high tech (22nd century) city is immense, and coincides with the emotional shock of losing their parents. At first the world seems rather well-ordered and civilised, but the fa├žade does not last long.

The writing style is generally easy to read, and the world is well-constructed. Unlike some dystopian books (1984 and Brave New World both fall into this trap) the characters are actually of some interest rather than being mere vehicles by which to give the reader a tour of the horrible world.

After an initial speedy start I felt that the first half of the book could have been paced a bit faster. In addition, one aspect of the plot felt a bit too obvious. However, after the halfway point the pace picked up significantly, and then increased again nearer the end.

About 80% into the book I had a feeling for how the ending was going to go, but turned out to be wrong (in a good way). The ending fits the world/plot very well.

I'm not a fan of book ratings because what might be awful for one person might be minor for another, and likewise for good stuff, so I prefer to go without them usually. However, for books I read as part of the Book of a Month I'm intending to rate them on Goodreads. Cherry Hill falls slap in the middle of the 4 star bracket. I'd like the first half to be faster, but the ending is good, the second half is nice and rapid, and the world is well-constructed.

So, if you're into dystopia or want to try something new, why not give The Burning of Cherry Hill a crack?


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