The humans are weak and vulnerable. Soon the beasts that share their stone-age world will kill and eat them. To save his tribe, Stopmouth must make his way to the Roof, the mysterious hi-tech world above the surface. But the Roof has its own problems. The nano technology that controls everything from the environment to the human body is collapsing. A virus has already destroyed the Upstairs, sending millions of refugees to seek shelter below. And now a rebellion against the Commission, organized by the fanatical Religious, is about to break. Hunted by the Commission’s Elite Agents through the overcrowded, decaying city of the future, Stopmouth must succeed in a hunt of his own: to find the secret power hidden in the Roof’s computerized brain, and return to his people before it is too late. Peadar O Guilin has followed his extraordinary debut The Inferior with an equally original and pulse-racing sequel in which human primitivism collides with futuristic technology.
Oh, the cannibalism! The word “flesh” will forever invoke disgust in me, I’m afraid. A line from chapter two goes like this: “Sweet, milky flesh that tasted so much better raw” (p. 27). Oh god, ew. I’m a vegetarian, so maybe I’m even more sensitive than your average omnivore, but I felt so sick after reading that! Raw and milky are not the right descriptors if you’re trying to entice me, just saying. At one point, the phrase “tasty gore” is used and I literally gagged. What saved me from more endless descriptions of “flesh” was the introduction of people from the Roof. I love that. It really feels like sci-fi, like dystopia now! I always find it really interesting to see the whole thing unfold. It’s like in The Hunger Games, when you know the Districts are treated like crap and their society has gone back to Wild West-type banditry, but then in Mockingjay they go to the Capitol and things are just as bad there. No one wins in a dystopia, not even the favored class, and this holds true in the Roof. Medicine is scarce, it sounds like servants have few rights, and everyone appears to be a servant to somebody. When Stopmouth finally reaches the Roof, he’s overwhelmed by the sights and sounds and is soon found by the Religious sect.
Some unbelievable stuff happens, like some deus ex machina Medicine that someone’s dad just happens to be able to get his hands on. This Medicine just happens to make everything better and improve conditions for Stopmouth’s guide, but whatever. If the plot device manages to show up in the first third and not the last, more power to it. Stopmouth wants to find Indrani and that’s all I care about too, to be honest. And he does find her, eventually and at a price. The whole time leading up to their reunion, I was reading with an impending sense of dread. Stopmouth and Indrani are not right for one another. They came together in a time of great emotional uproar, but they are so, so different. I worry they can’t overcome their differences, especially now. Stopmouth doesn’t understand even the simplest scientific concept, and Indrani is the former High Commissioner’s daughter, a former Warden. I’m not sure it could ever work out.
Stopmouth’s cannibalism freaks me out even more now that he’s surrounded by vegetarian Roof-dwellers, and Indrani seems to have “gone back to her civilized ways,” as Stopmouth says. I also felt increasingly sorry for the aliens this society seems to have gathered for its games. We see many different species held in confinement, and most are dead. They’re all supposed to be sentient, so the whole thing seems like cruel and unusual punishment, even if the aliens do attempt to invade from time to time. The action in this one is awesome, too. The first one kind of dragged for me because I wasn’t really that interested in experiencing the Tribe’s hunting, but this is different. Stopmouth and Indrani are running from enhanced, sci-fi warriors! So much better than drinking the blood of another sentient being! There’s something big happening, and with the retrieval of Indrani’s memories, I felt that dread creeping in again.
Wow, this one was crazy and full of adventures. I didn’t really predict the twists at all, so I was excited when they were revealed. This book doesn’t shy away from death or hurting people, even babies. The ending lets you know there’s another book coming, but you should have known that by the series title.