Review Blog

Aug 03 2012

Shade's children by Garth Nix

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2012 (1997). ISBN 9781 74237 977 7.
(Ages: 12+) Highly recommended. Dystopian. Adventure. This richly detailed story, plunges the reader head first into a dystopian world where children are harvested at 14, the Sad Birthday, for their brains and flesh used to build machines capable of hunting down any opposition. Gold-Eye has escaped from the Dorm, imagining up a razor blade from pictures on the newspapers he found in the walls, cutting out the tracking device in his wrist, then running for his life. He is about to be taken by the Trackers, when someone suddenly appears and kills the monster, winching him to safety, but their escape is not complete just yet. He meets three other humans like himself, and struggles to communicate with words he has not spoken for years.
The menacing Overlords with their retinue of machine made but flesh enhanced cohorts of Myrmidons, Trackers, Ferrets and Wingers, shadow the four as they try to escape. The scene is set for an adventure like no other as the reader, along with Gold-Eye must piece together the sparse information to find out where he is and who he can trust. In meeting Shade, the hologram which directs the others who have saved him, Gold-Eye is reticent to put his trust in him. But survival in this hostile future is paramount, and so he joins the group.
Reading this again was absolutely thrilling. I could recall over arching ideas, but the detail had escaped me, so reading it recharged my earlier impressions of its inventive components and stunning originality. It was one of the first YA books to promote a dystopian future, where readers are asked to project their society into the next generation, seeing possible and fantastic end results to the society in which we live.
Dystopian books are now common, stories in which children's bodies are used, a more familiar idea, but this book, first published in 1997, expressed daring, fresh new ideas. This novel which broke new ground was adventurous and astonishing, and that astonishment for the reader, whether old or new, is still there in bucket loads.
Fran Knight

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