Ever since The Hunger Games dystopian plots have taken over fiction titles…and not just YA.
Two books on my Goodreads list were Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee. Well, I went to the library and these two were both on the shelves, so I checked them out. I don’t purposefully try to read books that are similar in plot lines, so I was interested to see how these two books would compare.
I know. I know. Every book is different, and you shouldn’t compare one title to the next. But just because you shouldn’t doesn’t mean you don’t.
I read Never Let Me Go first, so I’ll start here.
Kazuo Ishiguro is an author that I read in high school. His book The Remains of the Day is considered a classic read, so naturally the English department had that on our required reading for the year. Never Let Me Go had a very similar tone to The Remains of the Day, which unfortunately was not my favorite book.
Never Let Me Go follows a group of children that were raised in Halisham, a mysterious boarding school. As they grow from children to teens to young adults, the main characters Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy reflect on their time spent together in the secretive institution.
Ishiguro is a beautiful writer in terms of the language and his ability to create visually memorable scenes. He writes like a painter, putting emotion onto paper in a way that the reader feels his words. A wonderful writer, BUT his story is written like one long flashback. It was hard for me to get drawn into the story when the plot line kept getting interrupted by, “It reminded me of when” or, “I thought back to the year.”
The jumping from present to past to the even further past and then back to the present was jarring for me. Just when I was digging into the scenario on hand, the year would change, the location would change, the personality of the characters would change and I’d have to refamiliarize myself with story.
The ending was a little predictable. A group of children are in a private institution…no one is allowed to leave and no one is allowed in…when the children reach a certain age they are sent away and never come back. Come on, what do you think is going on?
Science experiments? Organ Donations? Clones? It sounds all too familiar.
Title: Never Let Me Go
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Published: March 14, 2006
Then there’s On Such a Full Sea.
This book involves a young girl, Fan, who leaves her city unit B-Mor in search of her boyfriend. She’s pregnant and when he goes missing, risks her life and her unborn baby’s life to find him. Fan meets a strange array of characters on her search, and when I say strange, I mean it feels like they are straight out of a beautiful but odd Cirque du Soleil performance.
The book is futuristic, and Lee takes liberty to make it a bleak and crazy future. There were portions of the book that I had to reread because I’d think, “Wait, what just happened?” I felt like I was reading someone’s trippy dream journal because the plot jumps from one really weird situation to the next really weird situation. It had the hint of a Tim Burton movie, where each character is so unique and memorable, but everything is so dark.
I did think that Fan was well written and Lee created unforgettable characters and situations. There are also some very beautiful passages from this book that are both wise and poetic:
“It’s not that we’re too fearful or comfortable, too cautious or reluctant, but that, as we have never experienced life outside these bounds…the reach of our thoughts has a near ceiling. Imagination might not be limitless. It’s still tethered to the universe of what we know, and as wild as our dreams might be, we can’t help but read them with the same grounded circumspection that guided our forebears when they mapped out our walls.”
“And too intense a longing, everyone knows, can lead to poor decisions, rash actions, hopes that become outsized and in turn deform reality.”
Three stars. Same rating…different reasons!
Title: On Such a Full Sea
Author: Chang-Rae Lee
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Published: December 2, 2014