Book of the Week - Gone

Gone by Michael Grant

How do you update a classic like Lord of the Flies for a 21st century reader? How do you achieve the sudden enforced isolation of a group in an alien environment? In an area of GPS and satellite communication, it's hard to disappear, impossible to isolate. Not that people can't get lost on islands, but how do you do it convincingly today? The Truman Show suggested a way that might work and Gone borrows some ideas from this world-in-a-bubble.

Unlike Lord of the Flies which readers young and old have read, horrified and thrilled, Grant's book is solely for the Young Adult audience. In keeping with the zeigeist, the isolation of the young protagonists is achieved through a science fiction device: a rapture of sorts. And then things really get interesting.

I enjoyed Gone, mostly. One day, out of the blue, every single person in the town of Perdido Beach over the the age of fifteen--disappears. Grant at least thought all of this through. Cars crash, stoves are left on, babies are trapped in homes, kids at school freak out, children in day school have no one to take care of them. The main character Sam, is the epitomy of the reluctant hero. And we love him for it. In fact, I loved all the characters. The sub plots and various character view points really added depth and life to the story.

However, the book was long. Not uninteresting, but there were a number of points where I got tired of the survival storyline and wanted to know why this happened. There was also a "supernatural" plot element that I didn't hate, but it vague and forced most of the time. It's Okay for an author to leave the reader in a state of uncertainty, but this feels like the author is uncertain. As if they know there will be a sequel, but doesn't have it all sorted out in his brain yet. The countdown at the beginning of every chapter was pointless as I was getting excited for the climax and understood the timing issues, without an added reminder. I'm guessing Grant watches too much 24. Either that or his editor does.

I'm glad I read the book and I really enjoyed bits of it. There's a lot of good writing and plot potential for the sequel. I wish Grant had been more confident and open in expressing his core ideas, instead of tossing in tons of distractions. Gone has everything...suspense, action , mystery, romance, supernatural, and sci-fi. It would have been nice if some of those elements had been fleshed out more though.