Thursday, May 9, 2013

When We Wake

What might the world look like a hundred years from now? In When We Wake, the first novel in a young adult series by Karen Healey, Tegan gets to find out. After getting shot and dying, she is reawakened from an experimental cryonic stasis 100 years later. To Tegan, mere moments have passed, but the world around her has changed and all her loved ones are long gone. She might as well be starting life over. There's a lot to catch up on. Some of the world has changed for the better, but the oceans are still rising and the planet is still heating up. There's new technology and different laws and new social outcasts. But adjusting to a different way of living isn't Tegan's biggest problem. She's technically government property, and her leash is tight. Can she begin her life anew and live like a normal teenage girl, romance included, or is she destined to be a human guinea pig in a world where everything may not be quite what it seems?

When We Wake has a partially similar premise to A Long, Long Sleep in that both deal with characters waking up from stasis a lifetime later. But that's the only similarity. Each book takes its plot in far different directions. Personally, I enjoyed A Long, Long Sleep's version better, and you can read a review of that here.

Preferences aside, I found the premise of When We Wake to be interesting, and the delivery is decent. Tegan narrates, and as you get further into the book, you realize she's telling her story to someone (besides you, the reader, that is). The story takes place in Australia in a world suffering from global warming, so the setting is kind of different than your usual young adult fare. I enjoyed the book for the most part, but there were a few things that made my reading experience less than optimal.

I'm just going to say it: I'm skeptical of global warming. Yeah, I know, I'm one of those people. I realize this is fiction, and I can't make a big deal about this when I'm perfectly fine with other types of apocalyptic scenarios in other books. I just don't believe any of those are likely to come true, and while I also don't believe the earth is going to burn up anytime soon, this story feels a little too close to today's politics, like it's pushing an agenda: here's what the earth will look like in a hundred years if we don't do something about it, and here's what we need to do. (I can't believe Australia would be the place everyone would want to go, but admittedly, I'm not too familiar with topography.) The book might feel preachy because many of its characters are activists working for change, but I can't fault the author for choosing those characters to write about. Activists are people, too! (*gasp*) So, at least the author has created a consistent world where her characters are entwined with the politics of the times. I appreciate that. I'm just not a big fan of people trying to be so politically correct.

The book is fairly clean as far as morals go. The F-word is used, but not very much. There's no sex, but there are a lot of references to gay relationships and one instance of a sex change. Again, I felt like the book was pushing agenda: equal marriage rights and sexual freedom. Yep, I'm one of those people, too. I love you, no matter your sexual orientation, but I still think we were created to be male and female and that is the natural way of things. Are people gay? Yes. Are they immoral? Not necessarily. It really depends on what you do with yourself. Is it natural to be gay? Obviously not: look at how our bodies are created. I'm just saying, the natural order of things is male and female.

So, one hundred years from now, will we all be accepting of our differences and learning to deal with the effects of our large biological footprints? We can't really know, but I doubt it. What I don't doubt is that there will always be societal problems and natural disasters to deal with, and people will always speculate about the aftermath. So, annoying as I found the preaching to be, I still enjoyed the book as quasi-dystopian, border-post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, speculative fiction. Three stars.

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