Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Insurgent Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian Science Fiction
Series: Divergent Book Two
Pages: 525

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(Contains spoilers for the book Divergent).

Insurgent doesn’t offer much more than its predecessor did.  As a young adult book it will likely succeed in pleasing its target audience.  However I just don’t see how this story finds a broader audience unless there are disproportionately large number of adults who like to reminisce about high school romances … are there?

Roth does feel slightly more polished as a writer – the number of bad metaphors are down – but there is still a lot of room for prose improvement.  Gaps in logic plague the book, especially with the way the Erudite handle taking over Chicago. Withholding information that could resolve much of the problems in the story is used as a crutch to create tension.  This makes for a less exciting plot, and in order to ramify this, the author resorts to an intensifying more of what was in the last book: lots of violence interspersed with awkward first romance moments. Overall this story is engaging, but it’s also just as flawed (if not more so), than the last book.

The Erudite attack on Initiation Day has shattered the government that has been ruling Chicago.  With Abnegation destroyed, and a large portion of the Dauntless now being mind controlled; Tris, Tobias, and a few other survivors look towards the other surviving factions and the Factionless for aid.

As Tris and Tobias begin to plan a resistance against Jeanine and Erudite rule, they discover the attack on Abnegation was caused by Marcus Eaton and the Abnegation’s knowledge of a secret that could change everything in Chicago.

The second book focuses on the ramifications of the Erudite attack on Abnegation, Tris’ overcoming the horrors she witnessed in Divergent, Tobias’s complicated relationship with his parents, and bringing down the now dominate faction Erudite …  and of course there is the furthering of the Tobias and Tris relationship. All in all, the story follows a fairly conventional plot and it functions just like most second books in trilogies do – raise the stakes, expand the plot outwards towards a greater danger, and build towards a giant cliff hanger at the end.

Insurgent does all of these things and that’s simply why it’s not a terrible book. But it’s a quite a stretch to call it good.  The plot is predictable with its events, especially the end. Before reading this book I had to dumb my brain down, and try not to think too hard because when you do the decisions the characters make and the logic of the plot just starts to fall into shambles.  (Examples with spoilers will be at the bottom).

If there was one thing that bothered me about this book it has to be how lack of communication between characters was used to drive a lot of the tension in the plot.  Marcus’s big secret is revealed at the end, and it’s kind of a dud. With a broken faction system, why doesn’t anyone from the other factions force him to reveal this secret when he mentions it to their leaders? Ties to the old ways in chaotic situations like this is a weak reason for not having other leaders proactively interrogating Marcus – and considering Roth’s willingness to subject her characters to suffering it wouldn’t be out of context either. Also where are the Factionless in regards to this? They don’t have faction loyalties, why don’t they get Marcus to talk?

There is a lot of shifting around in Insurgent, the book is a lot more fast paced than its predecessor, and characters quickly shift locations – they are in effect: vagabonds.  This results in a frequent number of gun fights and other sorts of violent confrontations.  Roth is not shy about mounting a high casualty list. She offs characters pretty indiscriminately, and that is something I did like about this book. The pacing should keep the readers excited, but the shifts happen quickly and they don’t feel seamless, creating a bumpier story.

Despite all her flaws as a character, and her ability to make poor judgments, Tris is still a likeable narrator.  She makes even more boneheaded decisions in this sequel, but I still find myself forgiving her. I would like to explain why I like Tris using logic, but I can’t so I must tip my hat to Roth for creating a mostly likeable protagonist.
Insurgent and Divergent are equals as far as stories are concerned. I didn’t like one more than the other and the major issues and strong points between both books are fairly consistent.


Spoilers for Insurgent Below

In the middle of Insurgent Jeanine turns on the mind control serum on the inflicted rebel members of Dauntless forcing a couple of them to walk off roofs every couple of days.  This situation has a huge lack of logic and it sets off a chain of other mind numbing illogical events.  Considering the Dauntless rebels are outnumbered greatly by other rebel members it would be pretty easy to quarantine them in a building, thus preventing them from killing themselves – making this plan pretty pointless.  But it raises an even bigger question: why doesn’t Jeanine use the mind control serum on the rebel Dauntless to further her war plan – maybe use them to disrupt the rebellion? She instead opts to kill very usefully placed soldiers that are in fact loyal to her.

Tris’ solution to this problem lacks even more logic, when she just turns herself in to Erudite headquarters, without telling her friends who could’ve helped her plan a strategic attack. Again, lack of communication used to create tension is irritating.  Furthermore Tobias does the same thing and it’s never revealed why or how this helped Tris escape since it’s ultimately Peter who saves them both.  Peter’s help here is poorly explained – despite being established as a sociopath, apparently he has a sense of honor now because Tris saved him earlier? Sorry, but sociopaths don’t act honorably, maybe if he was furthering a different agenda, but Peter isn’t.

Jeanine decides to kill Tris with a death serum? Really? Besides having a real lame name for a supposedly feared weapon of death, and despite the fact that Tris has proven that she is resistant to multiple serums, Jeanine, the smart one’s most brilliant plan is to kill Tris with death serum.  Why not just shoot her? When you have guns and firearms everywhere, which are a far more efficient and deadly way to end lives, why have a death serum?

Furthermore, Jeanine’s office is only protected with simulations.  When she considers the Divergent the most dangerous group of people in Chicago – and said people are resistant to simulations – why guard yourself and your most precious information with something that’s completely ineffective against them?

There are more issues to this book than the one’s written about here, but these were the one’s that really stood out and bothered me.

Score: 5.5

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