Sunday, February 2, 2014

CBR VI #1- The Giver by Lois Lowry

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I like how when you read the book, it doesn't really feel like the future. In fact, the setting seems positively retro with the bikes and the innocence, like the 50s or something. But its not. Jonas, he of pale eyes, lives in a Community where everything is regimented. Everything and everyone has its place and time. Your path is set from the moment you are born from your birthmother until the moment you are released from old age. Jonas is in the 11th year of his life and in the next ceremony, when he (and everybody born in the same year as him) will turn 12 and will be assigned their official jobs.  In the ceremony, Jonas is surprised when he is given a very special job.  He is to be the receiver of memory.  The job is a mystery to everybody, especially to Jonas, but it turns out that the job entails absorbing memories from the Giver, who was formerly the Receiver.  The memories are not just memories of a single person, but memories of their people.  Of a more colorful (literally) and chaotic past.  Hundreds of years of memories.  Jonas receives these memories, both the amazing and the horrifying.  It changes him (well that and the NO MEDICATION) and leads him into making a choice to either leave the safety and sameness of his Community or try his chances Elsewhere.

In reading sci-fi, fantasy, zombie or vampire books, I am always very interested in the world building.  I thought that the world, the Community was pretty plausible.  Feeling and emotion is erased I think chemically by drinking medicine everyday.  Everything is planned and organized meticulously.  I like how at first, the world seems utopian until Jonas digs deeper and well, you see the world as it really is.  There is peace, but what is peace without freedom?  The moment where it really hit me was when I realized that the Community had no colour!  I guess everything was in black and white?  That's my favourite thing about how the book is written, when you are slowly made to realize that this perfect world is anything but.

The thing that confused me a bit about the book was that I thought it was going to be pure science fiction but then there's Jonas with the special powers to see colour and to receive and feel memories.  I don't know, I guess it's not necessarily bad, just a bit disorienting.  I liked the book, but I was a bit disappointed that it was a bit simplistic, I guess.  Maybe because it's a children's book and it's supposed to be that way?  I just felt that the events leading to the ending were just.. that's it?  It gave me that sort of feeling.  But I actually liked the ending, in that Jonas was not able to magically fix or overturn the system.  The solution is smaller, more personal, but its effects still resound to the community and to the reader.

I live in a country where we didn't really have any public libraries and when I was a kid.  Our teachers didn't really assign us any books to read in grade school and brand new ones were pretty pricey for our family.  What I'm trying to say is, I think I would have liked this better if I had read this as the intended audience, when I was a kid.  As it is, I like it, but I wasn't really blown away.

PS.  Being a completist, my next three reviews will be the companion books.  The ending was sort of a cliff hanger so I was interested to know what really happened.

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