Source: ARC from Netgalley
Published by: Orion
Released: 19th February 2015
Buy it from: Hive
In a nutshell: The Ship is…
The story of Noah’s Ark, if it were told by Offred from The Handmaid’s Tale.
Welcome to London, but not as you know it.
Oxford Street burned for three weeks
The British Museum is squatted by ragtag survivors
The Regent’s Park camps have been bombed
The Nazareth Act has come into force. If you can’t produce your identity card, you will be shot.
Lalla has spent her whole life shielded by her parents as they struggle to survive in a London that’s close to collapse. All that sustains her is a daily visit to the British Museum until her father reveals a plan to help them escape on a ship. But is the Ship the utopia that Lalla believes it to be?
An early contender for the best book of the year, this is dystopian YA but there’s nothing saccharine or self conscious about it. Instead, it’s the kind of book I can imagine English Literature teachers setting their 14 and 15 year old classes in a few years time.
The world in the book is so real and recognisable, but also fractured. The familiar landmarks of London, used in a way I never imagined them. Though sadly with the recent attempts of the current UK Government to revive the Snooper’s Charter, the behaviour of the rulers in this book is not entirely beyond the reach of the imagination.
Amongst all the disorder, Lalla’s mother seems a little bit too good to be true and one dimensional and it’s clear that we’re to turn our attention to Lalla’s father, Michael. As the second most important character in the book, Michael is a bit like an amoral Aslan, or The Wizard of Oz – great and powerful, but definitely not ‘nice’. In my mind’s eye, Michael was played by Jonathan Pryce through the whole book. The way the dialogue for him was written seemed to suggest it.
Unusually for a protagonist, I thought Lalla was less strongly drawn than her father and for the longest time I couldn’t quite grasp who she really was. But I think this is for two reasons. Firstly, it makes her journey as a character more noticeable through the book. Even in situations where outwardly there seems to be little going on, Lalla’s internal monologue reflects the changes she’s going through. Secondly, I think we’re meant to firmly put ourselves in her shoes, given that the story is written in the first person, so it makes sense that Lalla spends much of the time as passive and bewildered as we feel as we try to make sense of things.
Now to the plot. I don’t want to talk in too much detail about it, because the story is told as a suspense. But what I will say is that I was surprised just how much I found myself on the edge of my seat, given that this isn’t a terribly eventful story. If you’re expecting Bond-esque action feats you’ll be disappointed, most of the drama takes place in the characters’ heads. I did see the ending coming, but that didn’t detract from its impact in the slightest. In fact, if anything it gave me that squirmy “oh no, I think x will happen, but if they just did y in the next page then maybe…” Yes, I was hooked!
Readers of dystopian YA who are looking for a more intelligent, psychological suspense tale than a showy tale of all-the-bombs-and-guns.