It is with great excitement that I share my review of POISON by Lan Chan. Lan and I have been writing buddies for several years. It's really neat to see my friend achieve her dream of becoming a published author, and it's even more exciting to share her kick-ass novel with the blog-o-sphere! Oh, and just check out her cover! Isn't it amazing?!
CURRENT ISSUES EXTRAPOLATED INTO THE FUTURE
One of the things I love most about speculative fiction is its ability to extrapolate on current trends and issues we see in the world today. This is by far my most favorite aspect of the genre, and my favorite aspect of Chan's novel. The issue she chose to tackle was GMOs -- genetically modified organisms -- and possible threats they pose to the future of society. With the production of GMOs on the rise and political battles raging on this subject in our own society, this book is a truly compelling read.
In the world of POISON, natural flora and fauna has almost been completely eradicated in favor of GMOs. This has been done purposefully by Seeders, the ruling class. They keep the world's populace in servitude by making them dependent up on them for food. Only the Seeders can have viable seeds, and seeds are only given out to obedient citizens. The seeds doled out to the populace have been genetically manipulated so that they will not produce viable seeds when they grow. Unruly citizens are punished by the withholding of viable seeds. The land surrounding the towns has been infested with predatory animals and poisonous plants, making survival in the wild impossible without the Seeders.
Despite this well-hatched plan for world domination, the Seeders are faced two major consequences for their actions: 1) Ingestion of the GMOs has led to a new strain of cancer known as the rotting sickness. Those stricken with the rotting sickness waste away, descend into mental madness, and eventually die. 2) The Seeders' viable seed source is dwindling. As they have annihilated virtually all naturally growing plants, they have no source or replenishment.
This is the world in which our protagonist, Rory, finds herself. The Seeders think she is the missing link to saving their world from starvation and the rotting sickness. Rory, driven nearly insane by their machinations and violence, has other plans . . .
PROTAGONIST ON THE BLEEDING EDGE
Which brings me to my second favorite aspect of this novel: the character Rory.
This is not your average YA heroine. She's not soft. She's not needy. She doesn't pine after handsome boys. If anything, the more handsome they are, the less she trusts them. She's tough and walks on the bleeding edge of sanity.
Rory was taken as a young girl and forced to join the Seeder circus, where she was badly abused. A few years later, her mother was murdered before her eyes for being part of a people (the Wanderers) who illegally cultivated viable seeds. Rory herself was brutally and publicly mutilated for being half Wanderer. By the time we meet Rory as a teenager, she is already teetering on the edge of sanity. When she embarks on a quest to save her town from starvation -- a Seeder punishment for an imagined crime -- the very core of her being is threatened.
Rory is betrayed at every turn. She is forced to make hard decisions. She is forced to kill and murder. The people she loves and cares about are killed off one by one. Each blow pushes Rory deeper into inner turmoil. The only way she can escape is by popping handfuls of sleeping pills, usually four at a time. She has panic attacks. She lashes out at everything and everyone. She spends much of the book fantasizing about the various ways she can kill her enemies.
When she’s not fantasizing about mayhem, she’s sowing it. At one point, when forced to attend a Seeder dinner party, she snaps -- and stabs another dinner guest through the hand with a fork.
I could practically feel her prowling through the pages of this book like a caged, feral cat. In light of all she endures in the novel, her rage and fragile grip on stability ring true. Chan has truly crafted an edgy and unique character.
BREAK NECK SPEED
If you like fast-paced novels, you will not be disappointed with POISON. Chan writes at break-neck speed. And though I do enjoy a fast-paced novel, at times it felt like the plot accelerated too quickly. For lack of a better analogy, I wish the pace had occasionally slowed so readers could stop and smell the roses. (Or poisonous plants, as it were.) As a reader, I never had a chance to become truly grounded in a place or situation before being catapulted into the next harrowing obstacle. In the grand scope of the novel, this is only a small nit and it's more of a personal preference.
HOW ABOUT A PREQUEL!
Chan succeeded in creating a very detailed past for Rory. So detailed, in fact, that I'd love to read a prequel about her days in the Seeder circus. Hopefully this will be something the author will write in the future!
All in all, POISON is a fast-paced read with a fascinating heroine and a plot that may make readers pause before taking their next bite of GMO corn.