Sunday, November 15, 2015

Review: Scatterlings by Isobelle Carmody

Title: Scatterlings
Author: Isobelle Carmody
Publisher: Ford St
Published Date: 2015 (First published January 1991)
Buy: Amazon | Dymocks Australia

Merlin wakes to a world that is utterly changed. She has no memory aside from a name whispered to her by one of the strange voices in her mind, and the knowledge that she is being hunted. She is determined to learn what happened to her and to her world but the way forward is full of pitfalls and she is swept up by the renegade scatterlings and drawn into their rebellion against the all-powerful Citizen gods. 

But as she strives to separate herself from the telepathic clanfolk, she discovers the path to knowledge and way to the freedom the scatterlings seek, lead to the same place - the forbidden domed city of the Citizen gods. (from back cover)

Scatterlings is a thought-provoking read, a dystopian that questions the morality and consequences of human choices. 

Scatterlings starts with a bang and is immediately attention grabbing. As Merlin has no memory of who she is or what world she's found herself in, so too are we as readers lost. With only the voices in Merlin's head as any sort of guide, Carmody ensures her narrative is full of questions. What world is this? How are the people telepathic? Who are the Citizen gods? Who is Merlin really? With a name like Merlin, right away Carmody has readers theorizing! I enjoyed this aspect of the story, that we're putting things together along with Merlin. Scatterlings is certainly all about the world building. The Clans, the scatterlings, their beliefs, the visiondraught, the Offerings; everything comes together in a way that is surprising and impacting, a way that keeps us thinking about our own world. The issues Carmody confronts are just as relevant today, if not more so, as they were when Scatterlings was first published over 20 years ago. It says a lot about this book, I think, that it fits right in with the dystopian trend today. It's a merit to Carmody. I'd say the biggest downside to the novel is that Carmody does practice a lot of telling rather than showing, and so sometimes the story felt frustratingly slow. This is made up for by the truths that are revealed, when pushed through.

I don't exactly feel like I got to know Carmody's characters very well. Scatterlings is entirely from Merlin's point of view, so yes, we know her. But only as much as she knows herself, considering her amnesia. As for the rest of the characters, they all play a part, some quite significant. They effect the story and even Merlin, but still, they're not much more than that. Merlin is an interesting MC, relying a lot on her wit and instincts. Thankfully they're pretty good. She doesn't really form any truly solid relationships with anyone but Ford, and even that one is somewhat shaky. It's not quite a romance, despite Ford wanting that, but I guess it's a beginning. I was still intrigued by many of Carmody's characters though. The history of the scatterlings and the Clansfolk for instance, and the way their relationships work, like between Ford, Aran and Meer. The former two are brothers and Meer was at one time meant to be attached to Ford but ended up with Aran because of circumstances. But by attached I mean mindbonded. Yeah. In every way Carmody created a whole new world - entirely new beliefs and traditions, but based enough in our own so as to be somewhat familiar. The Rememberers, like Marthe, who see the future are cool, much like all those who have the telepathic ability. It's a fascinating evolution. Then there are the Citizen gods who are so unchanged. Carmody's characters may not be delved into in depth, as it were, but they definitely offer the most commentary. Though her story is in some ways confronting, there's a layer of hope to it that's uplifting. A new beginning. If Carmody were to ever write a sequel, I'd be eager to read where she took this world and her characters.

Scatterlings is a compelling dystopian, one that will keep you thinking.

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