The year is 2051 and the world as we know it is gone. In its place is a vast wasteland, abandoned buildings of long ago and few of humanity who remain. Most of the population lives in one of the States, portions of the world held safe against the new terrors of the world. Others choose to try and live a “normal” life on the Outside, beyond the protection of the States.
One of these people if Faith Daniels. She has been moved to a new school along with her friend Liz as there are so few outsiders left, school populations have to keep merging. Not that there is much teaching going on in the schools anymore. Everything from learning to entertainment has been replaced by Tablets, devices capable of changing their shape from pocket sized to larger. Want to study Shakespeare? Use your Tablet. Want to watch television? Those don’t exist anymore, so use your Tablet. Songs and books can be downloaded, too, making everyone’s reliance on technology complete.
It’s good to know that some things haven’t changed, even if the world has moved on. Faith is captivated by bad boy Wade Quinn. Wade and his sister Clara are hoping to compete in the Free Games, what now passes for the Olympics. Wade is far more than an athlete, however, and is hiding something dangerous.
When Faith is hurt by Wade, she comes under the protection of Dylan Gilmore. He knows that Faith is more than just an ordinary teenager living in a dying world. She has the Pulse, the power to move objects with her mind, and the possibility to be a great asset. There is a war coming and Faith has already lost more than she knows. Will Dylan be able to prepare her for what is coming, even as he dreads endangering her and putting her in the line of fire?
If they want to win the coming war, he doesn’t have a choice. Faith will have to trust someone she barely knows so that the world as she knows it ceases to exist all together…
I was stoked when I heard that Patrick Carman was writing a dystopian novel. The once budding genre now feels overburdened and I knew if anyone could put a new spin on what is quickly becoming tired and cliché it would be Patrick Carman. Why is that? Well, having read The Skeleton Creek Series, the Dark Eden Series and the 3:15 app of short stories, there’s a few things I know for sure: Carman is a superb writer. He manages to combine history, myth, legend and lore into truly thrilling reads. I also know that one of Carman’s main strengths is his characters.
One major failing of a lot of Dystopian fiction is that the focus is on the technology, the gadgets, how the world ended and what people are doing in the new world order to survive. However, because of the focus being on the world building and the technology (or in some cases, lack thereof), the characters and their development kind of take a back seat. Not so with Patrick Carman. It’s as if he imagines the characters first and then dreams up where he will put them.
Both the setting and the characters work to great effect in Pulse. Faith is likeable but stubborn and has her own secrets to hide. Liz is sympathetic and reminiscent about the past and a better life. Hawk is delightfully silly and tongue in cheek. Wade is dangerous and you love to hate him while Clara won’t win any Miss Congeniality Awards. Dylan is the white knight perhaps with a secret or two of his own.
By the end of Pulse, these are characters you care about (well, maybe not Wade and Clara) and the twists and turns of the plot keep you emotionally involved with Faith. She is a strong, likable heroine who will need to grow up fast to support the weight on her shoulders.
The writing and the characters impressed me, but what about Carman’s version of a Dystopia? I loved it. It was so understated, so quiet. It didn’t need to come out with guns and laser beams blazing, it simply was. There was one part in the novel where Hawk holds a book for the first time and Liz tells him that a book is always better than a Tablet. It was this heartwarming scene that really highlighted what Patrick Carman’s version of Dystopia was for me: It’s not about what we’ve gained. It’s about what gets lost in the process.
As much as I love my iPad and eReader, books always come first for me. I couldn’t imagine living in a world where books did not exist. Thankfully, with Patrick Carman’s literally pulse pounding ride in Pulse, I don’t have to imagine it. I just have to open Pulse, begin reading and lose myself in this compelling, creepy and dark world not unlike our own.