The author paints a convincing and harrowing picture of a post apocalyptic United States following the 'detonations'. The world is comprised of two separate and separated groups. There are those outside of the dome, known as the wretches, who struggle to survive in a hostile environment where crops will not grow and cities are ruins. Those outside have physical damage from the detonations, including fusion which has joined them to inanimate objects which were near them at the time of the explosions or to other living creatures. It is not entirely clear why this has occurred but it seems to be related either to the effects of atomic explosions or as a result of nanotechnology included purposely in the detonations.
The group inside the dome are 'pure' as they are apparently the fortunate ones who were within the dome at the time of the detonations and hence untouched. They are regarded with a mixture of envy and almost religious fervor by those outside. However, the dome is far from a utopian society and the inhabitants are manipulated, programmed and modified in a nightmarish Orwellian scenario. Hence the choice is between two different varieties of hell although, of course, no one has a choice as to which group they are part of.
Once the story gets into gear it involves a group of people comprised of a pure and several wretches, on a mission outside of the dome which I will not go into detail on, not wishing to spoil it for others. However, I found this tale thoroughly engrossing if rather depressing. Anecdotally during my first session on the book I was so involved that I went beyond my station on the way home - I cannot remember ever doing this before! Ultimately the story comes down to the basic concept of man's inhumanity to man and the struggles of a few basically good people to overcome adversity against formidable odds.
Julianna Baggott has succeeded in writing a story which is unique and which most readers will find hard to put down. The conclusion opens the way for additional books and I look forward to reading the other two parts of the trilogy as I believe this is what is planned.
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