Captives, the first in Jill Williamson’s Safe Lands series, is set in the near future (year 2088). The population has been decimated by a water-borne pandemic and the remnants of society have clustered together near safe water sources. The Safe Lands is a bell-shaped walled city that serves to keep its population in and dissenters out. The only problem (well, not the only problem) is that the Safe Land population can no longer reproduce. They have succumbed to a blood-borne version of the pandemic virus and they are all dying. The only chance they have at survival is to find non-infected individuals who can produce healthy babies. And they don’t have to look far, because there’s groups of them living right outside their formidable walls.
It’s the same, but it’s different
I’ve read a lot of dystopian novels. There’s something compelling about watching governmental choices go badly wrong, and that’s what you get when you read dystopian fiction. Better to read it than live it. It’s fun to speculate at a distance.
The problem with dystopias is that they have a tendency to repeat themes/situations. After a while, you feel like if you’ve read one, you’ve read them all. Especially now that The Hunger Games is so popular, Suzanne Collin’s books have become the litmus against which all dystopias are measured.
I can tell you, Captives bears little resemblance to The Hunger Games. The only thing that’s similar is the Safe Lands is a lot like the Capital. The same air of permissability and worship of leisure.
Where this series diverges is in writing. Captives has a large cast of characters, instead of one main character through which the story is filtered (Wither, Hunger Games, Divergent). So there’s a lot more going on in Captives than your normal dystopian teen novel, which is reflected in the page count: 415 pages! Although, that’s 415 pages you won’t want to put down.
Captives is loosely based on the book of Daniel, with the Safe Lands representing Babylon and their dying inhabitants (unsaved). Levi and his crew are from the village of Glenrock. They are disease free believers.
The theological question the book ponders is especially relevant to today: Can a believer hold on to his beliefs in the face of cultural permissiveness? Because the book has many characters, this question is approached from several angles.
Rating: PG-13 for subject matter
Artificial insemination- it’s not described, but it is alluded to, along with specimen collection. Safe Land society also features drinking, drugging, and partnering (think life in the US during the 70’s but with better technology).
We have a character that wants so badly to fit in that he places his own needs before those of his friends and family.
We have a character that struggles between wanting to help the Safe Lands society and the wisdom behind doing so.
We have a character who needs to be a leader, but must get past his own anger to become mature enough to do the job.
We have a character who thinks she is ugly and must find her own inner beauty.
This is the second book I have read by Jill Williamson, and I can recommend both (Replication is reviewed here).
What’s your take on dystopian fiction?