It’s August 15th! Happy Independence Day, India! Where my excellent friend is and I hope she is having a good time teaching children! And Happy Assumption of the Virgin Day, Catholics! I didn’t go to church today despite its being a holy day of obligation, but never mind, I will go another time. And, says my newspaper, and Wikipedia agrees with me, it is also happy birthday to Phyllis Schlafly, which I normally wouldn’t mention except it’s such a coincidence because I was just thinking about her the other day reading The Handmaid’s Tale!
(When I was in high school and my mum was getting her degree in theology, she had this book called Texts of Terror, by an excellent scholar of Biblical feminism called Phyllis Trible. And I always scowled at it blackly on the bookshelf when I saw it because I thought it was Phyllis Schlafly, and I knew I didn’t care for Phyllis Schlafly. And then one time I pulled it out and looked at it properly, and discovered it was close readings of several Biblical incidents involving harm to women. Not Phyllis Schlafly at all. Phyllis Trible is someone totally different.)
But on to Ann Halam‘s Siberia, which I read about on Sharry’s blog. Another YA dystopia book – apparently I can’t get enough of these. In this case, Sloe and her mother grow up in a snowy wasteland of wretchedness, having been banished thither due to her mother’s scientist proclivities. The unpleasant future here includes not only lots of hateful government taking people off and killing/banishing them, but no wild animals at all left in the world. Sloe’s mum is the secret guardian of “seed kits”, which contain the seeds of animals that will allow the earth to be repopulated someday. Their mission is to bring the kits eventually to a city where they will be safe.
This didn’t really work for me. Maybe I am dystopia’d out. This world didn’t feel real, and neither did Sloe’s quest to bring her little seed animals to safety – how could they really use them to repopulate the earth, with the government in power? They’d just get shot! I didn’t get a sense of the way the government works, or how the world had ironed itself out (like where were the luxury people that apparently exist? I don’t know! It was confusing!), and I didn’t think the seed kit animals were well-explained. Plus, here are some spoilers for you, I was mad that Sloe’s mum was alive in the end. I thought the story lacked an emotional punch, and I think it was partly because the environment didn’t seem terribly threatening (as evidenced by Sloe’s mum’s survival).
On the other hand, I was reading it at the hospital, an atmosphere not conducive to reading pleasure, and I have to admit, I was flying through and possibly not paying much attention to it. I think it could have done with some more fleshing out of the world they live in, but my other criticisms may be completely unfair. And why am I mad that the mum survived? I always want people’s loved ones to survive in dystopian books! Sheesh.