THE GIVER: A BOOK REVIEW

Actually, this is a book review of The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry. There are four books in all, even though most people are only familiar with the first one because it is on many high school reading lists, and also because of the unfortunate movie. I say unfortunate, not because I didn’t like it. I liked it, before I read the book. I liked it because Jeff Bridges is so good in it and the narrative pacing is tight. But after reading the books, I decidedly hated the movie adaption as it seemed to miss most of the main points of the book(s).

14-the-giver-gathering-blue-messenger-son.w750.h560.2x[1].jpg

The four books are, in order: The Giver, Finding Blue, Messenger, and Son. I enjoyed them all, but Gathering Blue is the best, by far, of the four. A tiny disclaimer here, I read the bulk of these while on vacation on the sugar white beaches of Destin, Florida underneath a yellow umbrella enjoying the perfect ocean mist. Environment can often dictate how one feels about the art being consumed.

 

What I Really Liked

I really liked the way in which Lois Lowry develops characters. Jonas, Kira, Matty, and Claire are each complex, believable, and likeable adolescents. I really liked that there are two male and two female leads, providing balance to the narrative arc. Jonas is the dominant character, but for my taste Kira is the best character. The opening pages of Gathering Blue provide such a rich description not only of her physical situation but also of her emotional, psychological, sociological, and spiritual condition that one feels as if they’ve known Kira their whole life. At least I did.

Some of the tertiary characters can be shallow at times, or even clichés but I can forgive that because the MC’s are amazing.

There are two other things I really liked, and both are unique to these books. One, I loved the vehement pro-life message woven through the novels. I don’t mean this in a political sense, because Lowry is not writing from a Christian worldview. I mean in the sense that life, in all its stages, is viewed as precious and honored in the book. This life is often viewed as fragile in the midst of a world that would destroy the weak, the unwanted, and the old.

Two, I really liked the almost prophetic nature of the books set against our contemporary times. This is particularly true in Messenger. It was written in 2004–twelve years ago, but there is a major character in that book who acts as a strongman attempting to build a literal wall around the village to keep the flow of migrants/immigrants from coming in. There are other nearly prophetic elements as well regarding the ethics of medicine, redefinition of family units, and many other things.

 

What I liked

I liked the readability of these books. There are four of them, but I read them in the time of a regular novel. The easy reading is  part of the YA nature of the books, but also it is part of Lowry’s clear writing style. She does not use a lot of words when not needed.

I liked the recycling of characters–I try to do this in my own writing and greatly admired it in these books.

I liked the “Question authority” feel of the novels. I have learned that some schools don’t allow these books because they encourage a questioning of authority and, to some extent, rebellion in the face of evil. I like that about these books. Too many people automatically trust “The person in the white lab coat” or the “Guy behind the desk” when in reality these people are often wrong, or worse, manipulative. Experts might be smart, but they also have agendas.

I like the way she uses symbolism, metaphor, and allegory to connect with me as a reader.

 

What I Didn’t Like

There was one part of The Giver Quartet I didn’t like. This is true of almost every book–there is always something that doesn’t settle right with me. The last book, Son, feels too rushed. I actually think Lowry should have written more on Claire’s transformation in a stand alone book, and then wrote a fifth book to finish out the storyline. She jams too much into the last book.

That’s it, that is my only complaint.

Final Evaluation

Loved the books. They are suitable for all ages, but are ideal for young adults. People who enjoy Harry Potter, fantasy, science fiction, character stories, dystopia, and tales of good and evil will enjoy these excellent reads.

THE FUTURE–A QUESTION OF HOW MANY

There are over 7 billion people on the planet.  How many will be on the planet in the year 2214?

A Little Crowded?
A Little Crowded?

I’m still riffing on the future (for the sci-fi novel I’m about to start working on) as I try to think about what the world will be like in a couple of hundred years.  Last time I pondered what kind of transportation systems might exist, because I don’t think air travel will last much longer.  Today I’m pondering another important question–how many people will be on earth in the future?

In my lifetime the world’s population has almost doubled (from 3.7 billion to 7.2 billion, according to geohive.com).  Needless to say, the number of people in the world greatly influences the way people live.  It will not be long until world population reaches 10 billion and then 15 billion is right behind that.  How many people can the earth sustain?

Many film and literary representations of the future assume overpopulation and the corresponding problems.  Thankfully, not all of these films are not all as bad as Soylent Green, but population and scarcity are the backdrop of the dystopia for most futuristic world-views.  If you’re having a hard time thinking about it, just remember it is called The Hunger Games for a reason.

What I am asking, and pondering of myself, is do I think there will be overcrowding in the future?  I have decided, at least in my futuristic world, that it will not be.  Part of this is because overcrowding is so overdone, but another part is that things tend to thin out.  I can think of several ways that the human race will become thinner (in numbers, not in body weight) in the future.

1.  Disease–It doesn’t take too much imagination to dream of a drug resistant harbinger of death that devastates world population.  Even as a I write this blog, there is much discussion about a very frightening nasty called MERS coming out of Africa.  Global traffic and trade might make the Spanish influenza epidemic of the early 20th century look like a runny nose.

2.  A Meteor–Science tells us it took out the dinosaurs, it might take us out too.  I do think we might be able to survive better than the dinosaurs, but not in large numbers.

3.  A Supervolcano–If a supervolcano erupted, say, underneath Yellowstone, humanity would survive but not until significant percentages of the population died in the resulting ecological disaster.

4.  Toxins–It just seems to me that human beings keep putting so much toxin into the air, water, and food, that eventually people will start dying off in large numbers.

5.  War–this is the most likely scenario.  It may only be a matter of time before Pakistan lobs a nuke at India or Iran figures out how to get one airborne and aimed at Tel Aviv.  Plus don’t forget Putin has his finger on a very large arsenal of atomic weapons.  Even if nukes aren’t used, conventional warfare alone, with the advances in technology, could wipe out an entire continents.

6.  Exodus–People leave when overcrowding becomes a problem.  The colonization of Mars will not happen during my lifetime, but in 150 years, it could be conceivable that human beings will live and thrive on Mars.  If so, humanity might get siphoned off to live elsewhere.

I haven’t yet made up my mind about how I am going to thin out the human population for my science fiction book about the future, but I do believe a world with fewer people is probably more likely, scientific, and interesting.  I’d love to hear what you have to say about it.

 

image from scoopempire.com