An Enjoyable Dystopian Novel with a Hint of Romance and Suspense
Series: Anomaly Trilogy (Book 1)
Publication Date: July 9, 2013
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Length: 303 pp
Thalli has fifteen minutes and twenty-three seconds left to live. The toxic gas that will complete her annihilation is invading her bloodstream. But she is not afraid. Decades before Thalli’s birth, the world ended in a nuclear war. But life went on deep underground, thanks to a handful of scientists known as The Ten. Since then, they have genetically engineered humans to be free from emotions in the hopes that war won’t threaten their lives again. But Thalli was born with the ability to feel emotions and a sense of curiosity she can barely contain. She has survived so far thanks to her ability to hide those differences. But Thalli’s secret is discovered when she is overwhelmed by the emotion in an ancient piece of music. She is quickly scheduled for annihilation, but her childhood friend, Berk, convinces The Ten to postpone her death and study her instead. While in the scientists’ Pod, Thalli and Berk form a dangerous alliance, one strictly forbidden by the constant surveillance in the pods. As her life ticks away, she hears rumors of someone called the Designer—someone even more powerful than The Ten. What’s more, the parts of her that have always been an anomaly could in fact be part of a much larger plan. And the parts of her that she has always guarded could be the answer she’s been looking for all along.
Thalli must sort out what to believe and who she can trust, before her time runs out…
Krista McGee uses her prologue to thrust you into the annihilation chamber with Thalli, making it impossible for the reader not to care about her. In Thalli’s world, each person is given a purpose, a role to play. She is the musician. But Thalli is different from the others in her pod, and she has always felt this difference. She’s curious. She asks questions. She feels deeply. It’s hard not to identify with Thalli in her struggle to understand the world and herself, to find her meaning and purpose. It’s a natural part of life and growing up, and we’ve all been there. In our world, differences are often heralded, markers of individuality to be celebrated. But for Thalli, these differences don’t simply define her, they threaten her existence.
McGee makes Thalli a convincing character whose curiosity and naiveté make her endearing but fragile. So we like her and worry about her. And as the plot progresses, we turn the pages with increasing speed to find out exactly what fate awaits her. Herein lies one of the novel’s strengths. You just want to keep reading to find out what happens next. Unfortunately, in the end, the author’s hand is a bit too visible, as the plot relies too heavily on reversals, the shifting tides of the Ten who seem to be capricious as far as scientific minds are concerned. “Let’s annihilate her; Wait, no, let’s study her; What were we thinking, let’s destroy her; No, she fascinates me, let me make her my lab rat.” On and on it goes…
Overall, the novel succeeds in drawing a sympathetic character in Thalli who is full of questions and becomes dizzied by her shifting, changing environment that makes her question what is reality and what is fiction. She navigates her world with the help of her friend/love-interest Berk and a wise but mysterious elderly man, named John, who tells her stories of life before the Ten. Stories that include a loving God, “The Designer.”
This inclusion of theology, or God, as “The Designer,” serves as both a strength and weakness. While this is an unusual, and laudable, part of a dystopian novel — it gives a larger context and viewpoint from which to define and create meaning and purpose for life and death, both individual and cosmic — the theological threads were not fully interwoven into the novel’s whole. So, what could have been a huge boon, felt like an underdeveloped sub-plot thrown in now and then. And, honestly, sometimes it took away from the momentum of the plot and felt like, at best, a simplistic, sentimentalized distraction.
Like any installment of a dystopian series, you finish the book with as many questions as answers. That’s a good thing for continued interest in the book (“What happens next?”). There are too many other kinds of questions, however, that reveal holes or flaws in the text that keep this book from ultimately taking off.
— Dawn Teresa
3 of 5 Hearts. An Enjoyable Dystopian Novel with a Hint of Romance and Suspense.
Anomaly is a good, clean read for girls and young teens. Older teens and secular readers may look for something with a little more edge and a little less predictability. In the end, the novel suffers from trying to straddle the line between being a Christian book and a secular book. Secular readers will likely ask for a little more plot and a little less God. Alternately, inquiring Christian readers may wish the theology had been more robust and better integrated.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Thomas Nelson for providing a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”