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After the fire The Map of Bones'

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Trilogy's second book another excellent dystopian offering

It seems safe to say that the entertainment world might be reaching the point of dystopia fatigue. With all of the books/films/TV shows built on a post-apocalyptic foundation in recent years, audiences could be forgiven if they began to get a bit tired of the whole thing.

However, those who choose to dismiss the trend out of hand will miss out on at least a few quality offerings amidst the copious forgettable mediocrities.

One such offering is the work of Francesca Haig. Last year's 'The Fire Sermon' promised to be the start of something different in the dystopian realm; the second release in that series 'The Map of Bones' (Gallery, $24.99) largely delivers on continuing forward with that promise.

It has been over 400 years since the cataclysmic event known only as 'the Blast.' The Blast has fundamentally altered human biology, with every birth resulting in twins. One twin the Alpha is a perfectly healthy baby. The other the Omega is born with some sort of infirmity. The twins are forever connected so much so that when one is hurt, the other feels pain. And when one dies, they both do.

This is the world in which Cass one of the rare Omegas whose difference manifests internally. She is a seer, subject to horrifying and uncontrollable visions of the past. Despite the best efforts of her twin Zach a member of the ruling council known as the Reformer she has fallen in with the Omega resistance forces devoted to fighting back against the Alpha stranglehold.

When Cass learns of the Alpha's intention to use the ancient technology to further subjugate the Omegas, she begins searching for a solution. A possibility presents itself one steeped in the leftover documentation of an organization from the time of the Blast that might have answers. Answers that may be able to not only defeat the oppressors, but undo the damage that led to the twinning in the first place.

Of course, there are many who would rather keep things as they are, leading Cass to rely on allies both expected and unlikely to aid her in her quest to change the world and perhaps to save it.

One of the most compelling aspects of the first book was the degree of world-building undertaken by Haig. 'The Map of Bones' continues that trend even farther, filling in the backstory of this blighted world in bits and pieces; we learn about the immediate aftermath of the Blast just as Cass and her cohorts do. Haig resists the temptation of broad strokes, instead choosing to be very particular about the ways in which the gaps are filled.

One could argue that Haig relies too heavily on her narrator Cass's interiority, while certainly rich, is obviously a limiting factor with regards to scale. However, while scale is undeniably important when spinning a tale such as this one, there are other methods of building it methods Haig wields with gleeful precision.

The relationship dynamics at play are complex ones, with each character operating in a reality in which they can never have complete control over their own safety. This lends every act an element of danger unlike the usual concerns that populate this kind of story. This added layer brings the depth of characterization that is sometimes sacrificed in genre fare.

It doesn't hurt that Haig can really write. Too often, craft is secondary to plot advancement, leading to stories that while engaging don't resonate as much on an artistic level. Haig's background as a poet has obviously informed her use of language, resulting in passages that are far better-crafted, far more lyrical than what you usually see in post-apocalyptic fiction. Comparisons have been made to Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road'; heavy praise to be sure, but not unwarranted.

'The Map of Bones' is an excellent continuation of a fascinating series. In a sea of derivative dystopias, this series is a soaring outlier. Haig has given readers a beautifully-written, complicated and often terrifying world. The third (and final) book cannot get here soon enough.

Last modified on Wednesday, 11 May 2016 15:16


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