Monday, 24 February 2014

"Whisper" by Chris Struyk-Bonn (book review)

I received a copy of Whisper from in exchange for an honest review.  The book was an advance copy, it will be available in Canada in April 2014.

Whisper is the first novel from Chris Struyk-Bonn, and hopefully not her last.  The dystopian setting of Whisper is certainly meant to be of our own society, and is not a terribly distant future either.  We find the titular character living in the woods with other rejects, individuals who have been cast off from a society which shuns those with any physical defect.  Whisper’s crude but happy life in the wilderness is abruptly ended when she is reclaimed by the father who rejected her, and brought to his house to work as a servant.  As Whisper is traded from hand to hand into a life in the highly polluted cities, she retains her dignity and independence and never surrenders the hope of returning to her simple camp and the only family she has ever known.

I am a very picky consumer of dystopian fiction, as it is one of my favorite genres.  But I thoroughly enjoyed reading Whisper.  While some of the ideas are not completely original (very much reminded me of The Chrysalids), the characters are what really make the story.  Whisper herself is a highly interesting and endearing character, and the supporting casts of characters have strong personalities as well.  Character development is really what made this book for me, as the reader can see how various experiences and maltreatment impact Whisper and shape her personality and future encounters.  There are a few odd moments of inconsistency, but they are not enough to detract from the overall growth of the characters.

My only complaint about Whisper are the few odd places where the story goes off on a tangent that seems to be completely unnecessary to advancing the plot.  One example of this is a scene where Whisper is rescued during transport to the city, but then quickly returns to her captor.  I found this scene to be contrary to Whisper’s established character, and almost completely unnecessary.  The explanation of trying to protect her family of cast-offs just doesn’t work in this scenario, as she is being sent by her biological father into a life of begging in the streets.  Being fully aware of the terrible destiny that awaited her, I would have thought Whisper would take her chances in the familiarity of the woods and try to return to her kin, rather than going back to her dastardly, creepy uncle who was transporting her.  The whole scene just didn’t fit.  There is a later scene where Whisper is briefly jailed in the city, which I also felt could have been omitted without damaging the storyline.

Despite a few inconsistent and unnecessary scenes, overall I was very impressed with Chris Struyk-Bonn’s inaugural effort.  The story is interesting, moves at an appropriate pace, and the characters are fascinating and multifaceted.  I look forward to reading more by Chris Struyk-Bonn, and recommend Whisper to anyone who enjoys dystopian fiction.  

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