Readers who enjoy dystopian literature, especially the variety presented in books like The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins or 1984 by George Orwell, will likely take pleasure in book one of The Torch Keeper series by Steven Dos Santos. In this new world, benign terms like incentives, recruits, and shelved mask unspeakable malignancy for an Establishment that is focused on genetic engineering and on manufacturing biological weapons.
The Culling features Lucian Spark, a sixteen-year-old boy who lives in The Parish, a community formed after Earth was destroyed by the Ash Wars. Life in The Parish is ruled by The Establishment, which has very strict guidelines about what it deems appropriate. For instance, when citizens turn sixteen in The Parish, they are assigned an apprenticeship until they are drafted into standard military service—or Recruited.
To fulfill his duty, Lucian has been working in The Parish library, but his life is hardly a fairy tale. With both parents dead, Lucian, or Lucky as his brother calls him, is the only guardian four-year-old Cole has, and Lucian takes his fraternal-turned-parental role as seriously as The Establishment takes its role as Big Brother. Much like the Reaping in The Hunger Games, the community “celebrates” Recruitment Day. Every year, based on their IQ, psychological, and physical aptitude tests, five individuals are pre-selected to compete in The Trials, where the Recruit that excels above the others is selected to join the elite Imposer Task Force. The Trials are The Establishment’s way of spreading fear and ensuring submission: by making the recruits choose which of their loved ones is more worthy to continue living.
When Lucian is accused of “inculcating [his little brother] into the ways of treason and sedition” (93), he finds himself a contestant in The Trials, along with Digory Tycho, Ophelia Juniper, Cypress Goslin, and Gideon Warrick. After a grueling orientation, these five young adults face unspeakable perversions in the Skein and the Labyrinth where they must fight for the right to live, the right to dream, and the right to have hope. Hope’s enemy is the feeling of being powerless, a feeling that can spread more quickly than an infection. On the brink of hopelessness, they fight against The Establishment that condemns its citizens to a life of servitude and suffering.
- Posted by Donna