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Monday, August 15, 2011

Tense Pro-Life Dystopian Shows Serious Potential

(Image from Indiebound)

In the not too distant future - 2065 to be exact - Earth's natural resources have dwindled due to overpopulation and wasteful usage. Inside the gated city where Ransom Lawe lives, laws govern everything from how much water comes out of the faucet at one time to how many children a woman can birth. With frequent blackouts, little food, no fuel for travel, and few reasons to get up in the morning, it's a hard, bleak existence. Still, it beats living out in the wild. At least in the city people have food. Sometimes.

As a recycler, Ransom makes barely enough money to support his wife and two young sons. Working long hours, plus wasting precious minutes trying to navigate the city's unreliable tram system, means he barely sees his family at all. Perhaps that's how he misses the fact that his wife is pregnant - with an illegal third child. Some people can afford to buy an extra child credit, but Ransom can't. Since Teya's insistent on keeping the baby, Ransom investigates every option available to them. To no avail.

With each passing week, Teya's pregnancy becomes harder to conceal. If anyone discovers her secret - a nosy neighbor, a cold-hearted snatcher, or Teya's sister, the Population Director - she will be taken, the child forcefully expelled from her body. The more desperate Ransom's situation grows, the more insane it seems. Should their tainted government really have this much control over people's lives? Disillusioned as he is, Ransom still can't imagine leaving the city. Where would he go? How would he even make it out in the wild with young children and a pregnant wife? He'd rather sacrifice his baby. Wouldn't he?

Grappling with doubt, fear and outright desperation, Ransom must choose what to believe in, whom to trust. In a world where one wrong move could cost him everything, Ransom needs to be very, very careful where he steps ...

While the plotting and character development in The Third by Abel Keogh leave something to be desired, it's not a bad debut novel. Not at all, really. The idea of population control makes Keogh's dystopian world unique (although Margaret Peterson Haddix also has a series about illegal third children), since most end-of-the-world societies have the opposite problem. It's also an issue rife with tension, making the story both intense and relevant. I actually loved the whole idea of it. Keogh makes some rookie mistakes, though - characters that don't exactly leap off the page, info-dumpy dialogue, and plot devices that hinge entirely on coincidence - all of which distract from the story. Still, the novel commanded my attention, propelling me through its pages in a matter of hours. Did I love every word? No, but I think Keogh's got some serious potential and, just for the record, if he happened to write a sequel to The Third, I would totally read it. Hint, hint.

(Readalikes: Reminded me of lots of other dystopians, but especially the Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien and Delirium by Lauren Oliver.)

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for violence and intense situations

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of The Third from the generous folks at Bonneville Books and Tristi Pinkston Book Tours, for which this review was written. Thank you!


  1. I haven't heard of this book, but it does sound promising if not at least nothing like i've read.

  2. It sounds interesting. Hmmm, do I mark it to read? Sigh!

  3. I haven't heard of this one. I really love the idea behind it, and I'm definitely going to read this one at some point. Good review!

  4. This sounds fascinating. Great review, you managed to explain what the book was lacking while still keeping me interested in reading it. No small feat! lol I think I'll be adding this to my TBR

  5. The premise definitely has me curious. Not sure if the delivery would do it for me, though, based on what you've said. Info-dumpy dialogue? Ick.


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