Paradigm

Paradigm

Paradigm was written by Ceri A Lowe and is due for release on 13th June 2014. It is the first instalment of a planned trilogy which focuses on a dystopian society that has grown from what remains of London following terrible meteorological event. I am writing this review based on an advanced copy which I received from NetGalley and so I note that what I have read may not be of the same quality as the final product. Please bear that in mind as you read this review.

In 2015, terrible storms lay waste to the world. Lasting for almost five years, they destroy all of civilization as we know it and force those who survive to flee underground in order to avoid the hostile weather, radiation and savage animals. When it is safe to return to the surface, humankind find that they have to start over from scratch. The new society that they build – called the Model – is structured to enable optimum efficiency. People are routinely frozen until the time that they are most needed and all things that distract from productivity – art, literature, music – are outlawed.

The story follows two youths across two different time periods. Alice Davenport is forced to fight for survival as she is orphaned during the 2015 storm. Her turbulent childhood causes her to gradually resent her life on the surface and when she is taken underground by the mysterious Paradigm Industries she jumps at the chance to improve society.

In 2102, Carter Warren has just been awoken from stasis. He has been groomed for his entire life to become the next Controller General of the Industry and the time has come for him to compete against two other contenders to earn his rightful place. Yet after fifteen years frozen, he discovers that the Model isn’t entirely as he remembers it. Drones police the air, looking for any signs of rebellion, and barricades have been erected to ensure that nobody can ever leave the city. As Carter learns more about this new world it shines a harsh new light on everything that he believed in and he slowly begins to wonder if maybe the time has come for the Model to be redesigned…

Firstly, I feel that I should say that the concept of this novel is fantastic. Of all of the dystopian stories that I have read, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered one in which we are shown the formation of the society. Over the last few months we’ve looked at several dystopias that share similarities with the Model – Panem, Prentisstown, Hopetown, Aramanth – and yet what we learn of them comes from the discontent of people who live in them decades after they have been formed.

Through Alice’s chapters, we are allowed to see what makes such an ideology seem so attractive in the first place. We see our world through the eyes of a little girl who has never had an opportunity to experience to good aspects of life, having lost her father, seen her pet dog killed by bullies and been neglected by her mother. Compared it this, it is easy to see how the sterile order of the Model would seem like a vast improvement to her. This logic is perfectly sound. Alice isn’t some crazed dictator. She’s not trying to rule the world with an iron fist. She is trying to create an efficient society that can reconstruct the surface world and it works.

However we also get to see the reverse side of this society from Carter’s perspective, 87 years in the future. Although he accepts the fact that the Model was a success at the time that it was created, the cracks in the system have begun to form. The Industry defend the Model to the death, disposing of anyone who would threaten it. They will not accept the fact that societies need to change and adapt over the course of a century. It is because of its inflexibility that groups of people have naturally begun to form in opposition to it.

For the most part, the novel is incredibly well written. The prose flows nicely and the story keeps up a good tempo, not revealing much about the inner workings of the Model until the last quarter but still leaving enough subtle discontent to hold the reader’s interest. Carter’s half of the story ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, clearly forecasting the direction that the next book will take, but Alice’s does round off nicely. It does make me wonder how Lowe plans to continue her story in future volumes as it already feels as though it has reached its logical conclusion, but I suppose that is a question to be explored during a future review.

There are a couple of points in the novel where the author does slip up. Sometimes, I felt like she tried to be overly elaborate in her descriptions and in doing so made the meanings of her passages a little muddled. There is a section early in Alice’s story where she describes the creaking of the stairs before continuing to describe a map on the wall in the same sentence. I reread this passage several times and still could not figure out why the map was weighing heavily on the staircase. In another passage a girl steps in front of a transport vehicle only for there to be a “piercing scream”. It wasn’t until a few chapters down the line when the girl turned up alive and intact that I realised that the scream was the breaks of the tram and not the girl herself.

Additionally, I found Carter’s plot line to be somewhat lacking in the end. He learns that the Industry have spent decades crushing any attempt to bring art back to the world and yet his plan to save the Model is simply to reintroduce art. I don’t know if I missed something with regards to this plot point but I could not see anything different. His rational for why this would work just seemed to be that he was Carter Warren. In my head, judging from what the novel tells us about the Industry, I could see no reason why this plan would work. I know that it’s entirely possible that it would not (maybe Carter’s self-confidence was getting the better of him) but it just baffled me why he would ever think that this was a good idea to even try. Maybe the rebels are backing the wrong horse.

Although the supporting cast of the story do not leave much of an impression, both of the main characters were wonderfully complex individuals, possessing both strong positive and negative traits. Although Carter initially showed little compassion, he gradually develops into a leader who cares more about people than maintaining the statusquo. Alice, on the other hand, grows steadily dislikeable. Although she begins as a very sympathetic character, her indoctrination at the hands of the Industry causes her to become cold-hearted. By the end of her story, she is not above using her friends as a mean to an end. In a way, her development heads in the opposite direction to Carter’s as she becomes an avatar of the Industry – pushing aside any emotional ties and acting on what she perceives to be the greater good.

In conclusion, Paradigm is a very good novel and is a strong starting point for the series. Although there is some flowery prose and weak plot elements, the fact that it shows the establishment of a dystopia alongside its gradual decay sets it apart from the current market of The Hunger Games clones. Its main characters, though not always likable, are at least very interesting and develop in very different ways as the story progresses. I’m curious to see what direction the story will head in from here and I’m looking forward to revisiting this series in a future review.

Paradigm can be purchased as an eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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