Tuesday, May 26, 2015

What Nightmares Are Made Of

I just finished what is either one of the coolest books, or the most frustrating books ever.  What is this book that inspires such conflicting feelings? More Than This by Patrick Ness is a book that has been sitting in my e-reader tbr pile for a long time, along with a bunch of other books by this author.  I have heard lots of good things about this guy, and the yellow door on the cover of this book made it the one I picked up.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD, and by spoilers I mean ALL the SPOILERS so if you ever plan on reading this book, read it first and then read this post, because a huge part of this book is the not knowing so again, you are warned SPOILERS AHEAD!
The book is broken into four parts, each one changing the mood and direction of the story.
Prologue - We start the book with a boy drowning.  He is in a cold sea and though he struggles to stay alive, in the end the ocean wins and after slamming the boy against the rocks he dies.
Part 1 - The boy, who's name is Seth wakes up confused, scared and in pain.  He stumbles around trying to make sense of the fact that he is seemingly alive, even though he can remember drowning.  After finally getting his bearings, he realizes he is in his old childhood home in England, even though he and his family moved to America years before.  He discovers that his house and the whole town have been completely abandon for at least a couple of years.  There is no signs of life anywhere and everything is falling apart.  He falls asleep and has super vivid dreams of his past, both childhood and recent.  This happens through out this part of the book and we find out two major events in his life.  The first being when he was about 8 and living in this home, his mother left him and 4 year old brother home alone for a few minutes.  While she was gone, an escaped prisoner from the prison behind their home convinced Seth to let him in.  The prisoner kidnaps his little brother Owen and though he is finally recovered, he needs a lot of therapy.  This results in the family moving to Washington state and Seth feeling like they blame him for Owen's issues.  The other big event is after he and his friend Gudmund fall in love, a picture of the two of them is leaked and they are forced apart by Gudmund's parents.  Seth becomes a pariah at school and it is all too much for him.  In between these vivid dreams, Seth finds all the supplies he needs to survive.  He also discovers a weird dusty coffin in his old room with tubes and stuff inside.  At this point Seth decides that this is his own personal Hell and that it is his punishment.  He goes a bit crazy and starts running through the ruined town and sees a black van driving around.
Part 2 - Just as Seth starts to go to the van, he is pulled into a cave by a pair of kids Regine, a girl about his age and Tomasz a kid around 12.  They tell him that they are the only others here, and the person in the van, who they call The Driver and he kills anybody he comes across.  Seth is understandably reluctant to trust these two, but agrees to go with them.  They go to Seth's house where they are pursued by the Driver and narrowly escape.  Seth takes them to the grocery store he found and they collect food.  Seth insists that they tell him what they know, and after a whole ton of back and forth and interruptions, they finally tell him.  Their theory is that the world went bad and everybody connect themselves online to live.  They think the coffins are essentially lifepods that keep them alive while they are connected.  Seth immediately comes up with all kinds of problems with this theory.  He wonders why if they live in an artificial world, that all of their lives suck so bad in it.  He also wonders where all the other coffins are, and where the technology came from.  The other two do not have answers, but at the moment it is the best theory they have. Seth goes to the prison and discovers a very high tech area that contains the coffins.  He searches for his parents and finds them, but can't find his brother.  The Driver comes in and puts him in a coffin, trying to reattach him, but he is again miraculously saved by his new friends.  He tells them he now knows what happens but needs to process the info.  When he wakes up the next morning it is all clear.
Part 3 - Seth runs to a church where he finds a graveyard and his brothers grave.  Turns out his brother was not recovered, but instead he was murdered by the escaped convict.  After being told this, an official type person tells his parents about Lethe, a program that lets you forget your former life and restart in the online world.  Unfortunately their is only so much they can do to alter the brain so while they can get Owen "back" they cannot erase all the events, thus the story of his kidnapping and recovery.  The official tells them eventually everybody will be forced online because the state of the world is in such bad shape. They agree and are put online.  This seems to confirm the theory that Regine and Tomasz came up with, but something is still bugging Seth.  He feels like everything is unfolding like a story, that he keeps getting rescued, just in time, or he finds just the supplies he needs, he is having a hard time completely accepting the present reality. He theorizes that while the online reality may be true, this might also be a way for his mind to deal with death, or maybe an alien experiment, or, well who knows.
Part 4 - Seth decides that now that he has the truth, he is going to go back into the coffin before his death, not die, and tell all the onliners the truth.  Regine and Tomasz are against it at first, but end up supporting him.  On their way back to Seth's house to use his coffin, he has a feeling that even though they have defeated the Driver, if this was a story, he would appear one last time.  Sure enough, the melted, twisted body of the Driver appears and essentially all but kills Seth and then brings him back to life before being disintegrated by Tomasz in one more miraculous save.  Seth decides it doesn't matter if this is real or not, he has to do something and to try and live the best he can.  He gets into the coffin saying to his friends "I'm ready".
Whew talk about you long synopsis, and as always I did not even get more then the bare bones of it down.  Let's start with what really stuck with me about this book.  The first thing is the way the author wrote the first death scene and the part about Seth waking up.  I have to tell you folks, the way these were written really feels like nightmares I've actually had.  I had the same terrifying, queasy, trapped feeling I get when I have nightmares, it was really a work of authorial art.  It's really hard to describe why this whole first part made me so happy and yet so freaked out at the same time, but there you have it.  The flashback were cool because they felt so real and authentic.  The part with Seth and Gudmund could have come from almost any high school relationship, that angst, that falling so hard with no restraint, that feeling that this is the one good thing in your life.  The part with the high school turning into a nightmare after the pictures got out is unfortunately all to understandable to, and for a gay couple it would be all the worse (which is so unfair).  The parental reactions on both sides to the relationship came across true, with one set freaking out in a complete homophobic manner and the other set, more concerned about the problems it will cause.  The flashbacks about
Owen and the family falling apart around the events that happened are actually fairly accurate.  I have worked a lot in foster care and the medical field and unfortunately events such as this often come with a family never learning how to cope.  Seth working his way through both of these events in his life, figuring out what they really mean in the context of himself and other people was a great study in individual human thought process.  The open ended ending was superb.  I hate books that build up to a big reveal and then bam, a "what the heck was that" ending with a ton of questions that don't make sense.  Ending the book in this way, the author acknowledges that there is a bunch of stuff that doesn't make sense, and in all honesty there is probably no one ending that would satisfy all the questions and elements posed.  Really the only thing I did not like about this book was its length.  Many time, especially in the second part it felt like the author was dragging things out, that Regine could have filled Seth in anytime, but a bunch of bs reasons, or random events stopped her from talking, or something else to prevent Seth (and us) from knowing basic stuff.  Hmmm...now that I'm thinking about it, maybe that was part of Seth's brain trying to come up with an explanation...or the program hiding info...or...Ahhh this book is so frustrating and awesome!  Ok now that this post is going on a zillion pages I'm gonna wrap it up.  I give this book an 8 out of 10 cans of custard and recommend it to anybody who survived high school, likes a book that will make you think, or enjoy's a read that mixes genre's.  I will definitely be reading another one of these guy's books.
How do you feel about ambiguous endings?  What ending do you think is the real one?  Is this finally a way to give me an ending I don't have a huge problem with?

No comments:

Post a Comment