We first meet our heroine Enora Byrne on a Tuesday morning, as the six o’clock siren goes off in their small Northwestern town. Enora must go to school, and her parents to work in the mill. They cannot wash today, they barely have enough to drink – water is currency, it must be worked for. The Byrnes live in the aftermath of a massive global environmental disaster. There is no green in the landscape of the once famously verdant Pacific Northwest any more – just dead vegetation, and brown land as far as the eye can see.
Dystopian fantasy is an enduring genre, and though I often wonder why (when everything is so awful anyway) I think it’s because we need to keep hearing the warnings elsewhere than the news. There are clear influences in this novel all the way from Orwell’s “1984” to Collin’s “The Hunger Games”, as well as hints of Brave New World and Atwood’s Oryx and Crake series. I have to cast my mind quite a way back to reading dystopia as a young adult – the readership this novel is aimed at and this stands up well (my introduction was “The Children of the Star” since you ask).
In ‘After The Green Withered’ an ongoing global drought has led to mass extinction, war and human migration on an unprecendented scale. Like all the good dystopian fantasies this one feeds on our fears of what could be right around the corner if we are not careful now. It feels incredibly on the nail – as school children around the world protest climate change – that the heroine of this book is, when we first meet her, a high schooler herself.
Unlike The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen, Enora is not feisty, she’s not in any way a rule breaker – her outlook is basically ‘I just want to keep my head down and stay out of trouble”. Although she does sneak out to meet her friend Bram, and she has feelings for him, what mainly happens is conversation and companionship. There’s no illegal hunting or actually sneaking under the fence. The real rebel is Enora’s friend Safa who we meet only briefly; Safa is sparky, full of ideas – you can really feel her kicking against the system – I have the feeling, and I hope, we will meet Safa again as this story unfolds
‘The system’ is a corporation – the Drought Mitigation Corporation, an organisation calling itself a business, while actually being a de-facto government complete with army and police force – the Sentinels. Enora is recruited out of high school to join the Sentinels (there is no question of this being her choice, it just happens) and turns out to have an aptitude for the work. But Enora knows things are not right, she is inside a system she feels helpless against, who can she fight it? Her progress is swift; she is good at her job – as a technological mapping specialist – and it is on a mission carrying out this task that she gains dangerous knowledge about the world she lives in.
This is written for a young adult readership and Ward really doesn’t pull any punches in her writing. The politics of dictatorship are all there – the DMC has all the power, elected governments have clearly capitulated to it in the past. Dissenters are dealt with swiftly and harshly.. Even knowing this – and though Ward has been quite expertly building the tension for a fair few chapters – the point at which Enora believes she has discovered what may be going on in the upper class utopia of Renascence has a real impact on the reader.
I’d certainly recommend this to people who enjoyed The Hunger Games. I found it a quick, engrossing read (which is what I need sometimes!). I’m very much looking forward to reading the sequel – “Burden of Truth”.
Thanks to Dave of @TheWriteReads (tireless book-blogger supporter) for putting this tour together and to Kristen Ward for the review copy of the book. This is a mega – blog tour, of which this is day three. Here are the rest of the day three reviewers, do go and check them out!: