Title: Gone (Gone #1)
Author: Michael Grant
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Released: 24th June 2008
Rating: 4/5 stars
I actually started this about two years ago and I have to admit, I only got so far before I stopped reading it altogether. I think it was just because I wasn’t really getting into it at the beginning and I was too impatient to stick with it. But this time I did, and honestly? It was so worth it.
Sam Temple is sitting in class with his fellow students, listening to Mr Trentlake teaching them about the Civil War when suddenly, he disappears. No warning. Just poof. Gone. And it’s not just his teacher. It’s every teacher, every parent, everyone, in fact, aged 15 or over. Following this strange and disturbing event is the discovery of a barrier, something the kids come to call the FAYZ. What then begins is a battle – a battle to keep order and structure in a world that suddenly has no rules and, ultimately, a battle to survive.
Michael Grant is a truly brilliant writer. The world he has constructed here is, I think, quite true to what would actually happen if such a thing occurred. There’s always going to be someone who jumps at the chance to exploit a bad situation – in this case, someone who wants power over everyone else. Likewise, there’s always going to be someone to balance it out and fight for what is right. This makes a power struggle inevitable and Grant has really portrayed and developed this idea well. Vivid and realistic, I was able to visualise this world clearly and share in the brutality and peace, the hope and despair. The author does not shy away from the dangers and realities of such circumstances, and so the harshness is reflected here, making it all the more believable. I also liked the fast pace. There were times when I found my interest waning, but it always picked up.
Sam Temple blew me away by how strong he was. He was a compelling mix of strategic fighter, capable leader and regular guy. Sam knew how to step up to a situation. Sure, he didn’t want to be the one everyone looked up to, but when it came to crunch time, he accepted that responsibility. Modesty was his response to people’s claims of his heroism. Mixed in with that were moments of self-doubt and anger that it all came down to him. Mixed in with that was a school crush which then evolved into something deeper. He sounds too good to be true here, but when you read the book, you know what he comes across as? Real. Sam Temple is real.
When I started this, I had misgivings about reading from what is, for me, such a young perspective. But those soon went away, because it struck me that that perspective grew to sound a little older. A lot of the characters sound slightly older than their years. I think that it really worked in this case, because the events these characters go through are gruelling. Tough. Yet Grant doesn’t do this unrealistically. There are still youthful turns of phrases and behaviours that keep these characters true to their ages and all the more real.
One character I took exceptional issue with was Sam’s supposed best friend Quinn. To be honest, I reached a point where I was just sick of hearing his voice. I found him to be such a weak character, personality-wise. I can understand him freaking out, but in light of all the stronger characters around his, I couldn’t understand how consistently pathetic he was. Constantly whining and resentful, he dithered between being the puppet of Caine and Orc (those in favour of power and brutality) and trying to stay in Sam’s good books. He didn’t have the guts to pick one side and stick with it. Any trace of his morality evaporated. And he wasn’t the only one. Jack was another to earn my disdain.
Orc was someone I really didn’t like. Not in that I was scornful of him, like with Quinn, but in the sense that I couldn’t believe what he was doing. His sole focus on becoming someone to be feared disgusted me. The acts that focus drove him to, disgusted me. It’s strange because while Caine was just as evil, if not more so, I didn’t have quite the same reaction to him. I didn’t like him, but Cain was different. Much as I’m less than impressed with these characters, I do think it’s a sign of good writing here, because all of these character types can be found. Plus, it all gets a reaction. Grant wrote in third person, but from different perspectives, and I enjoyed reading from all these different voices.
Overall, Gone was much more impressive that I thought it’d be. I seem to have this thing where I read books after all the hype, so I’m pretty late on this one. Fast-paced, action-packed and less straightforward than this review owns to, Gone is not a book you want to have missed.