Author: Ceri A. Lowe
Genre: Dystopian, Speculative, YA, Literary fiction
Publication Date: June 13, 2014
e-book: 1,382 pages (Goodreads says this is how many pages will be in the paperback edition)
Stand alone or series: First in a trilogy
How did I get this book: NetGalley
NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Bookouture for letting me read this.
Let’s start with a brief synopsis:
What if the end of the world was just the beginning?
Alice Davenport awakens from a fever to find her mother gone and the city she lives in ravaged by storms – with few survivors.
When Alice is finally rescued, she is taken to a huge underground bunker owned by the mysterious Paradigm Industries. As the storms worsen, the hatches close.
87 years later, amidst the ruins of London, the survivors of the Storms have reinvented society. The Model maintains a perfect balance – with inhabitants routinely frozen until they are needed by the Industry.
Fifteen-year-old Carter Warren knows his time has come. Awoken from the catacombs as a contender for the role of Controller General, it is his destiny to succeed – where his parents failed.
But Carter soon discovers that the world has changed, in ways that make him begin to question everything that he believes in. As Carter is forced to fight for those he loves and even for his life, it seems that the key to the future lies in the secrets of the past…
What I thought:
I’ll admit: I was first drawn to this title on NetGalley by its cover’s similarity to that of the Divergent series (though it is kind of a rip-off, isn’t it?). Then I read the summary. It sounded fascinating, like a unique and interesting take on dystopian fiction. I was really excited when I was granted access to the e-ARC.
I wasn’t disappointed in the book, but I think my hopes were a little too high for it. There were things I liked and things I didn’t like.
The things I liked:
-The novel alternates between chapters set in 2015, with Alice, right before and after the Storms ravaged London, and 87 years later, with Carter, as he is awoken from his slumber (is that the right word? I don’t know), his time in the Catacombs where he has been in stasis for the last fifteen years. This was very cool because, at the same time, we got to see how the Community was formed, how life got to be the way it was for Carter, and then how he saw it change and become something else entirely. I thought that switching between the two of them was a perfect way to have both a prequel and a sequel, if that makes sense (though I will comment later on how I preferred one character more than the other).
-The novel had some very beautiful descriptions, for both the emotions of the characters and the atmosphere/setting. Here’s an example:
What was the point, thought Alice, of that headstone now? She imagined it anchored under acres of water-sky, sitting alongside supermarket trolleys and broken glass with her father flying high in his coffin, floating amongst the clouds made of buildings.
I was able to completely picture the scene with this description. And “water-sky”? I don’t know, I just really liked this. Another example:
She felt the weight of the earth and the world and the stars melt from her shoulders and rise upwards to meet a cloud-shaped like the moon in the sky of the canteen ceiling.
-The idea behind the novel is just fascinating: Storms have ravaged London (we don’t actually hear anything about the rest of the world, though it’s probably safe to say the same fate has befallen the whole world) and a company called Paradigm Industries was already fully prepared. Alice, and many other survivors, are taken down into their underground bunker where they live for the next five years as the Storms continue to rage. Carter, who lives 87 years in the future, was raised as a Contender for the leader of the Community. In the Community, some people are frozen, put in stasis, for a time so that others may live. The Model, a computer program, decides when certain people are needed based on their knowledge and skills. I mean, how cool is that? Also, I seriously hope that we learn more about how the Model works; how has it been programmed to know when people are needed? I loved the idea. And overall, I thought it was really well-developed, and we get a good idea for how the Community is formed, though we should learn more about this in subsequent books. I thought Lowe’s dystopian novel was so unique because we actually got to see how the dystopian society was formed and exactly why it was dystopian; the problems were so very evident for the reader.
-I honestly don’t know how this makes sense, but as I have sat here and written this much of the review, I have realized just how much I liked this book. Though there were several parts that I just didn’t enjoy while I was reading, I realize now that I liked it A LOT. Weird.
The things I didn’t like:
-Carter. This is the note I wrote after I finished the book: “What the hell with Carter? Carter’s boring until about ¾ of the way through. Then really good. Then boring. Then interesting.” Haha. I found myself pretty bored with him for most of the middle section of the book. I kept reading his parts really fast so that I could get back to Alice, whose chapters I really, really enjoyed. Then about ¾ of the way through, his chapters got super cool and I was reading them fast for a completely different reason. Then, his chapters were kind of boring, but his last couple of chapters were interesting. I don’t know. I had mixed feelings about him.
-Although the novel had some very beautiful and wonderfully descriptive parts, it also had several that had me rolling my eyes or questioning if this was even the same author. Seriously. Some parts/sentences were almost juvenile in their descriptions. Though I will say that it helped the prettier parts stand out even more in their stark contrast.
-The cover art. Now that I have read the novel, I’m actually really disappointed with the choice for the cover. It is an obvious attempt to attract readers, specifically teens, I think, that read and loved the Divergent series. This novel is so unlike Divergent, and many other recent dystopian novels, and I think giving it a cover like that doesn’t actually do the content of the book justice. This is a pretty adult book in that it asks a lot of hard questions about what we, as a society and as individuals, focus on; we care so much about materialistic things that we don’t realize that we are ignoring our planet. Alice says, “Instead of doing something about the planet, about wars, about the madness, people just hoped things would improve.” Of course, things didn’t, and won’t, improve. This novel was a lot more serious than I thought it’d be. It is less action-packed, less focused on the romance than several dystopian novels recently published. I thought Paradigm was actually more like literary fiction with a dystopian plot thrown in. So, yeah, bad cover choice.
What these things mean:
I want to say that I didn’t really realize that I really liked Paradigm until after I’d finished it and started my review, so I don’t know what that has to say about the book; it’s probably good that I was still thinking about it and considering exactly what it was trying to say after I was finished. Alice was so compelling. She is an 11-year-old girl who lives with her mother, a prostitute, in council housing. She’s gone through a lot in her short life, and, therefore, doesn’t feel much in the way of emotions and favors logic over everything else. She was actually a little off-putting at first because of how unemotional she was through everything; I mean, she’s 11 and she doesn’t cry when she realizes her mother is probably dead and she is completely alone. I suppose she has always been alone. I was pulled into her story right from the start.
The bottom line:
While there were some parts that I thought were a little boring and unnecessary, overall, I really liked Paradigm. I’m looking forward to the next in the trilogy to see what becomes of both Alice and Carter and how their lives are even more interwoven than they though.
Rating: 7 – pretty good
If you are interested in reading Paradigm, it is available for pre-order on Amazon.
Reading next: The Revealed by Jessica Hickam