Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Divided Kingdom, by Rupert Thomson

Divided Kingdom
Rupert Thomson

In the middle of the night, a child named Matthew Micklewright is taken from his home by the police, and sent to be educated about the reformation of their country. Matthew becomes Thomas Parry, and is sent to live with a new family, the so-called others of his kind, as the country seeks the kind of stability that had been lacking before its reorganization.

Once the United Kingdom, the country has been divided into four sections based on the natures of the inhabitants. The Divided Kingdom's citizens are now classified as either Sanguine (nice and pleasant), Melancholic (depressed and emo), Phlegmatic (spiritual and laid-back), or Choleric (angry bastards). The borders of these four areas are tightly controlled and no travel is allowed among them.

Now let's thicken the plot. I'm sure you can see where this is going: our boy Thomas will transgress these rules, become a man against society, and seek his own identity in a world that wants conformity.

And there you have Divided Kingdom. The book was okay, as far as dystopian novels (which I generally love) go. The story was interesting, and I really got into it once I had finished the first half. However (and there's always a however, isn't there?), the book had quite a few drawbacks. For one, a society based on the four humors?? Really? That doesn't seem practical at all. And is all that description necessary? Allow me to try my hand at it:

I looked down. To the left of my foot stood a toad. He looked at me, mouth gaping. I walked on, intent on finding the doorway. The walls of the hall were grimy with handprints. I remembered I hadn't brushed my teeth yet today. There was a tiny hole at the very bottom of the left wall. I wondered if some rat hadn't gnawed its way through, trying to escape, feeling trapped in the prison of these tiny, choleric rooms...

You get the point. The above passage is, if you couldn't tell, mine. I was just trying it on for size. Thankfully, whenever I enter the Bog of Eternal Description (much like the Bog of Eternal Stench, if you can catch that clever allusion), I just use my handy-dandy skimminator which I purchased at Ye Olde Skimme Shoppe. Thus I finished half the book in just under a day's time, and I have a feeling I didn't miss out on anything important. Thomas is lost. Thomas suffers. Thomas is healed. Campbell would be proud.

The biggest drawback to the book is the ending. I won't give anything away, but you know the end of How the Grinch Stole Christmas? How every one has joined hands, all friends now, singing merrily? It's kinda like that. Doesn't that defeat the purpose of a dystopia?

In a nutshell: Not the most believable book-of-the-future, but mildly entertaining. Some very cool scenes.

Bibliolatry Scale: 3 out of 6 stars


Edwin Hesselthwite said...

Hey Bib -

I really enjoy reading your reviews, however i've come to realise your scores never mean anything!

You don't like giving 6, and you don't like giving 0, so everything seems to get a 3...

This is a nasty, scathing review (I loved it), so go balls out and give it a 0!!!

Go on... Be meaner.

Bibliolatrist said...

That's not quite true! I've given things a 6 (Lolita) and I've thrown out a 0 or two (Earth); I just feel that those scores are pretty rare and are not often deserved.

I tend to follow the rating scale to the right of my main page. A 3 I kind of see as being a mediocre, bland sort of grade, rather like a "C" in school. Anything higher is good. I give a lot of 4 and 5 - although unfortunately this lastest stretch of books has been rather undeserving.

But, yes, I ultimately have a difficult time deciding on a rating--maybe I ought to just scrap it all together. That way one will be forced to read the entire thing and not skip to the end, eh? Although I feel that a rating system is somewhow necessary.

What to do, what to do. I will ponder this.

Thanks for reading; sometimes I think you're the only one who is :)

Kristin Dodge said...

Not true... I'm lurking. ;-)