The Storm Thief, by Chris Wooding
Genre: Young Adult Dystopia, Science Fiction, Ages 11-14
Reason for Reading: This was my bookclub book for this month.
Summary: The island city of Orokos has been trapped in isolation for so long that the idea of a "world outside Orokos" had become a dream for only the naive and the fanatics. There is nothing outside of Orokos, and Orokos is nothing but city, ghetto, and the ruling Protectorate. Chaos storms wreak havoc upon Orokos and its inhabitants - picking people up and dropping them elsewhere; crippling some people while giving life to others. Even eyeshadow isn't too small to be overlooked by the probability storms.
When Rail and Moa make a snap decision to hide an expensive artifact from their Thief Mistress, they must flee with an assassin hot on their trail. While running, they come across a golem, Vago, who'd been misplaced by a probability storm before he had any idea of who he was, where he was from, or why he was made. Where can these refugees go when the Protectorate rules with an iron fist - keeping ghetto-folk away from the city? Their path is simply a series of coincidences strung together...leading, where?
My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. The characters were simple enough to flow well in a book for young teens, but each character had an interesting mixture of strengths and weaknesses. My favorite character was Vago, the Golem, whose process of self-discovery throughout the story made him intriguing.
I loved the philosophical underpinnings of this story. It reminded us that the random power of entropy will always win. It always destroys what we have worked to build. Entropy is a non-stoppable machine. So why do we continue fighting it? Why do we continue dreaming of that "other world" when we have so much evidence that it doesn't exist? Why do we clutch hopefully to mere coincidences and use them to fuel our dreams?
Slight spoilerish material
This is a book about hope as well as one about chaos. One character, who was "fanatically" willing to risk the lives of her people in pursuit of a seemingly impossible dream said: "We can stay here with our dreams just out of reach, or we can risk everything to reach them." Even after having finished the book, I'm still not certain which was the right thing to do - was it better for her people to risk everything in pursuit of their dreams? Or was it foolish? Is it better to keep yourself safe by being cynically aware of the brutality of the world, or is it better to hope, dream, or love?
To me, the lasting message of the book is: your life might be nothing more than a series of coincidences that are out of your control, but how you respond to the world defines who you are - and YOU decide how you respond. I'm not sure whether I agree with this philosophy or not. Lately, I've had a bit of a faith crisis - which makes the life-is-a-random-string-of-coincidences theory sound rather rational. But I know what everyone expects me to say is that God is in control, it's not a string of coincidences. ;)