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Monday, August 19, 2013

Aquifer by Jonathan Friesen

Only he can bring what they need to survive...

In 2250, water is scarce, and those who control it control everything. And they’ll do anything to maintain their power – deceiving, dividing families, banning love... even killing those who oppose them.

But above all, they seek to control knowledge and communication – ensuring the truth that will bring their downfall will never be known. But one person verges on discovering it all.

Sixteen-year-old Luca becomes the Deliverer, the only one allowed to contact the people called ‘Water Rats,’ who mine the essential water deep underground and bring it to the ‘Toppers’ who desperately need it above.

But when he meets a Water Rat who captures his heart and leads him to secrets – secrets about a vast conspiracy, and about himself – the net around him tightens. Luca and those around him must uncover and share the truth needed to overthrow tyranny – even as they fight for their lives.

Released: August 6th 2013     Pages: 303
Publisher: Zondervan             Source: ARC received through Zondervan's Z Street Team

First Look: *****  This looked interesting enough.  There's plenty of Christian fantasy (especially high fantasy) out there, because I think biblical messages and symbols translate well to a high fantasy setting.  I'd never read any Christian sci-fi or dystopian before this book, so that aspect intrigued me.

Setting: *****  It had much in common with other dystopian settings--highly controlled society, lack of water, children educated by government, etc.  (I find it interesting how these themes are repeated over and over.  We seem to fear them, as a society.)  And yet, it had its own unique personality.  I could tell that the people had their own unique culture, and the aspect of the Deliverer (a single person in charge of ensuring that the water doesn't get 'turned off'), and how that shaped the society.

Characters: ****
I liked Luca, the main character, well enough.  He was curious, inquisitive, and genuinely wanted to do the right thing.  On the other hand, he seemed to get over things way too easily.  For example, when he found out the truth about the Water Rats, the shock wore off much sooner than was realistic. 

Though I didn't outright love any of the characters, the others were decent.  Tayla, Luca's love interest, seemed a little generic, though in fairness, we didn't get much time to get to know her well.

What I appreciated was how human Luca was.  Meaning, he wasn't overly righteous or heroic to the point of being unrealistic, like in some Christian fiction I've read.  It's amazing how many Christian books shy away from giving their characters flaws, just because the book is Christian.

 Plot: ***** I really enjoyed the first half.  There was a mystery that needed solving, a secret stash of books, a fugitive to hide, and a missing father.  I wanted to know what would happen next.  The second half, though, starting once Luca and company went underground to the city of the Water Rats, got a little weird and hard to follow.  I kept up fine, but it felt rushed, especially the ending.  I found myself wanting more exploration of the plot and various aspects of the setting, but I didn't get it. 

And then there was the insta-love.  Almost as soon as Talya and Luca saw each other, they were in love, and Talya was ready to abandon everything she'd ever known and risk her life to go with Luca.  Um, what?
 Uniqueness: *****  Again, it has much in common with other dystopian books, but it has enough uniqueness to make the plot and setting not feel tired and overused.

Writing: ***** 
Throughout the book, the dialogue struck me as oddly proper and formal.  It just  Maybe their education system teaches kids in a way that they grow up sounding like this.  I don't know.  Then, however, Luca's uncle spoke in a way that made him sound more like an under-educated person, which confused me.  Why would he use poor grammar, when he got the same education as everyone else?

Another problem I had was the pacing.  Like I mentioned earlier, the second half of the novel went way too fast for my liking, almost like it was skimming along the top of the plot instead of fully fleshing it out.

 Likes: I like how the Christian themes were present without being overbearing or preachy.  Also, this is my 200th review!  So, if you've read any number of those reviews, thank you!  Here's a GIF for you:

Not-so-great: Nothing not already mentioned above.

Overall: Overall, I enjoyed this.  I had my problems with it--including the pacing, oddly formal-sounding dialogue, and most of all, the insta-love.  I liked the setting, though, and the characters well enough.  The themes presented were interesting, and the premise was unique.  Plot-wise, the first half was awesome.  Overall, this is a good standalone dystopian book, especially if you're looking for some good and unique Christian fiction (though if you aren't Christian, you won't be put off by this book, as far as I can tell).  

Similar Books: It had a setting that reminded me a little of Ship Breaker, or its companion, The Drowned Cities.  And also, FreaklingIt featured hidden/underground cities in a dystopian setting like The City of Ember.

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