Top critical review
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Good, but not without flaws.
on 29 October 2010
I feel that no other 3 star review accurately or comprehensively reflects my views on this good book, so here we go. It will contain spoilers, I must warn you of that now.
Shade's Children is a post-apocalyptic book written by Gareth Nix which tells the story of a fight for survival against a seemingly invincible enemy. It's sometime into the future and an event known as the Change eradicated the world of every human over the age of 14. Those who survived are held prisoner by a shadowy group of robot-humanoids who raise children to harvest their organs. Kids don't live past 14 unless they're breeders, to keep the cycle going. The story begins with a young escapee being rescued by a group working with `Shade', who is a kind of overseer for the surviving escapees. He houses them safely in an old submarine and enlists groups of youngsters to do missions. His eventual goal is to reverse the change, he explains. The story is set up to be a thrilling, gritty post-apocalyptic novel, and in many ways it was so, particularly towards the end. However there were a few points I'd like to raise.
Firstly, I don't feel that the world is explored enough by the author. The book is of average length at 300 odd pages but I feel that this could have been longer or even separated into separate volumes. There's a lot going on in this wasteland of a world in which we're placed, but we don't get to see as much of it as I'd like. Why is the force of the Projector never really explained? Why did the Overlords speak about the children as potentially being from another dimension? Why don't we find out more than this city in which the book is set? I never really got the impression that our protagonists were travelling huge distances which for me personally reduced how legit it was that the submarine wouldn't have been located by the robots - who could of course read minds.
I really didn't feel that the book was half as violent, bleak, unsettling and full of curse words as many a reviewer has said. I felt that having what are essentially kids or young adults as the main characters actually dampened the misery of the wastelands. I never really fully felt that they were engaged in a struggle to survive - they're never parched with thirst or starving, and even when they venture into the Meat Factory (where the children are taken to be harvested), one never really gets the horrific reputation it has - you never see or are told of any killing rooms - there's minimal gore in the book etc. I can totally appreciate something being horrific without any mention of gore, but if we are really supposed to fear for our characters lives, Nix has to do better than just have racks of children sleeping.
But the book isn't a bad book at all. There's a reason I finished reading it at 2am when I had work in the morning. The ending quarter is the best in the whole book because it actually has a good solid focus. I also felt that the coldness of the robot enemies flourished here. I'd recommend it to readers who are interested in post-apocalyptic and cyborg/technology novels - you will enjoy this book, and I believe that it'll only lead you to want to read more post-apoc like `The Killing Moon', `The Road', and `One'.
Sometimes I think that a 3-star review is underrated. People seem to think that something has to be 4/5 to be good. That's just not true. I mean, let's face it 3/5 = 60% and that's higher than a lot of pass rates at universities.