Friday, January 31, 2014

Captives by Jill Williamson

Captives, by Jill Williamson is the first in The Safe Lands series.  The world as Williamson has imagined it has become a place of polar opposites: those living in "The Safe Lands" within a carefully guarded, highly tech dependent, and largely epicurean society; and those Safe Landers have termed "outlanders" who live a rather primitive existence by comparison (hunting for food, arranged marriages, and a surprising lack of modern conveniences like indoor toilets).  I have to admit to scratching my head at that would a group of people digress back to outhouses in about 75 years (book takes place in 2088)?  Did all the plumbers and carpenters just disappear (or all migrate to the Safe Lands?).

The reason for the two divergent realities was not really explained in this book. However, being the first in the series, perhaps the origins may yet be explained in a future book.

Omar is the main focus of the outlander storyline. He is the boy who doesn't fit in. He isn't a manly man wanting to go out and hunt and prove his masculinity. He has never felt his father's love--more like his disdain.  His grandfather is the "Elder" of their community that is supposedly Christian but overall the leadership in the community was lacking and his own father treated him horribly.  No wonder he starts thinking that perhaps the grass is greener in the Safe Lands.

The Safe Lands are really a moral wasteland of a people infected with a plague. They are desperate to find uninfected people who will be surrogate mothers carrying children who are the product of anonymous donors. With no moral compass, they gather females of child-bearing age into what they term a harem.  At their scheduled, time, members of the harem are impregnated and kept in posh comfort until they deliver. At which time, the child becomes a ward of the state with no parents.  In Captives, several outlanders have been kidnapped; females of child-bearing age are settled into the harem, younger children put in a boarding school and males expected to be making donations to keep the artificial insemination program going.

In reading Captives, I felt hints of the Hunger Games and The Giver books. And even though neither Hunger Games nor The Giver were Christian books, I found stronger moral themes and lessons throughout those than in Williamson's Christian novel. Outlanders are supposedly people of faith but leaders are not godly leaders and Biblical truths are not truly followed.  There may be a few spattering of verses recited by a character here or there but hardly enough to make their faith seem at all believable or authentic.

My biggest disappointment was in how much of the storyline revolved around promiscuity and addiction. Even those characters who claim a Christian faith don't always resist temptations. So many scenes depicting racy night clubs with singles pairing up willy nilly, all while abusing alcohol and narcotics. I felt there was way too much immersion in that setting without a clear depiction of the depravity and emotional bankruptcy that results in wild living.

The reading level and complexity of the story puts it in the Juvenile or Young Adult category but honestly, the issues dealt with are what I consider mature.  The real question is whether this book is worth reading at any age?  Is it necessary to explore a future that is completely obsessed with immorality while missing any clear moral implications and a well-defined border between good and evil?  In my opinion, the answer is no.

I don't make that statement lightly. With six children, I am always on the lookout for worthwhile literature that will inspire, instruct, and enterain. I really wanted to love this book but knew it was not one I could endorse for my own children to read.

To judge for yourself, visit the author's website where you can watch a book trailer and read summaries of Captives as well as the sequel, Outcasts.

Disclaimer: I received an e-book version of Captives for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.


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