Spectacle

Spectacle

This review is brought to you as part of the Virtual Book Tour for Spectacle, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours.

Spectacle was written by S.J. Pierce and first published in 2015. It is a dystopian science fiction story which follows the suffering of a peaceful alien race at the hands of greedy humans. The novel stands alone and so you don’t need to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

In the two hundred years since the Great Disaster struck the planet, mankind has been forced to survive on the three remaining landmasses. Although these continents are overpopulated and poverty and disease are rife, the survivors band together to work towards a better tomorrow. That is until blue markings begin to appear on peoples’ skin.

The marked individuals reveal that they are Changers, a race of aliens that crash landed on the planet thirty years previously. Although they initially morphed their skin colour to blend in among humans it seems that the transformation was not permanent and they are beginning to shift back. The Changers arranged a meeting with the President of New America to discuss peace between their races, however this quickly ends in a shootout. Accused of an assassination attempt, the Changers were rounded up and exiled to a dangerous island in the middle of the ocean.

Mirabella “Mira” Foster has grown up on the island knowing that her father was framed for his hand in the supposed assassination. She has watched every year as the New American government claims a volunteer from her people – one who will fight in the annual Freedom Match to earn a right to live among the humans again. This year, however, things will be different. The Changers have a plan to prove to the world that they have been wronged.

Unfortunately, the whole plan hinges on Mira’s best friend, Luxxe, being chosen as the contestant in the Freedom Match. Accompanying Luxxe for moral support, Mira quickly realises the danger that they are in. If they are suspected of rebellion, it could mean the end for her entire race.

Spectacle Banner

As I started to read Spectacle, I immediately found myself drawn into its world. Pierce is clearly a very talented writer and the novel was fantastically written – smooth, flowing and with few noticeable grammatical errors. It wasn’t the kind of novel that I was expecting based on its Goodreads blurb (I was expecting the blue markings to be the result of some kind of genetic mutation) but this was not to the story’s detriment. One of the best aspects of the novel was the detail that Pierce goes into while describing the Changer’s culture.

The portion of the story which was set on the island was by far my favourite as it shows how resilient the Changers are. Although they had been ripped from their comfortable lives and stranded on an island of poisonous critters and harsh winters, they quickly reform themselves into a tribal culture. While I would have liked to have learned more about their home world and the events that led them to flee to Earth in the first place, the Changer race was fleshed out sufficiently to allow it to feel solid and real.

Spectacle is one of those science fiction settings that doesn’t ever feel like too much of a stretch. Humanity is really portrayed here at its worse – as a society that would exploit and kill a minority group for profit and entertainment. Although it does make clear that many humans are ignorant to the suffering of the Changers, they still crowd to the annual Freedom Match in the hope of seeing one of their “enemies” ripped to shreds by a human champion. It’s bleak and barbaric and what made this the most frightening for me is, I can imagine it happening. We all see how brutal reality TV can be (personally, I can’t really stomach to watch it). It’s it too much of a stretch to imagine that we would eventually become so desensitized that we would enjoy watching death matches?

Of course, this plot point may seem a little familiar. The idea of the televised death match has already featured in a number of different films and novellas. The blurb for Spectacle even goes as far as to say that it’s The Hunger Games meets Avatar, and it’s safe to say that most of the inspiration came from The Hunger Games. While the first third of the novel was very original, as soon as reference was made to the Freedom Matches, I began to notice more and more similarities. While the novel never took so much that it felt as though it was a rip off, it did still feel a little derivative.

Despite the fact that the novel is solid and very enjoyable, I did find that it suffered a little due to this comparison. This is purely a personal gripe but I just couldn’t escape from the fact that, for all Spectacle’s positive points, it just wasn’t as polished as The Hunger Games. While the Changers’ way of life was very detailed, the humans’ was less so. We don’t really see much of the human world or learn about the Great Disaster. In The Hunger Games we experience the lives of both the mega rich and poor and so we can’t see clearly how the world came to be the way it was. We also don’t really learn much about where the Star Dwellers originated from or why there are now rings around the moon – both things that I was really curious to learn.

The end of the novel also felt a little too neat for my liking. Again, this is very personal and I do enjoy a happy ending as much as the next reviewer. Yet the actions of the climax have no lasting consequences. Everything resolves and comes up smelling of roses. I find it hard to believe that such ingrained racism would just disappear without a trace so quickly and easily. Humans really must be shallow if they can go from wishing death on someone to loving them in the blink of an eye.

The characterisation in the novel was one of its strongest points. Although the novel has a pretty huge secondary cast, they all come across as being unique individuals. They speak in different voices and have very different hopes and dreams. The amount of development that Mira’s friendship group receives in the novel – particularly Cole and Taylor – is excellent and it did make me care about what happened to them.

While I did also love Mira, I did wish that she was more active during the story. For a large part she was merely present as events played out around her. While her actions during the climax were frankly awesome, I would have loved to have seen more of her developing her powers and directly influencing the rebellion. I also had some issue with her fixation on her race. Throughout the novel, Mira repeatedly claims to be made up of thirds – human, Changer and Star Dweller – yet this isn’t really true. As her grandmother was the Star Dweller, this would make her half human and one quarter of the others. A bit of a nit-pick, I know, but it did pop into my head every time she said it.

My only major issue with the characterisation was the romance. Although the story spends a lot of time seemingly setting up Mira with Cole, this fell apart two thirds of the way through the novel. I really liked this as I felt it was pretty realistic – not all relationships work out. However, Cole was replaced by Garrett – a character who doesn’t really appear until the final act of the story. Mira falls of Garrett instantly and he naturally reciprocated. I know that some people find these kind of relationships romantic but I still don’t see the appeal. I like romance to slowly build over the course of a story. I just don’t care for pairings that are given no time to bloom naturally.

So, to conclude, Spectacle isn’t a bad novel by any means. Although it shares a lot of similarities with The Hunger Games it’s still a compelling and fast-moving read that contained some really strong characters. While I do have some gripes with the novel they’re mostly personal and I would still recommend it to anyone who enjoys both dystopian science fiction and a nice happy ending.

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

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. SJ Pierce
    Oct 30, 2015 @ 14:53:54

    Holy cuteness with the blue markings on the gator!!! lol I love it!!! Thanks so much for reading and reviewing. Wonderful review. xoxo

    Reply

  2. Giselle
    Oct 30, 2015 @ 17:11:02

    Great review, Kim! Very thorough! I love the sounds of the world building it seems very well crafted and while I really enjoy sci-fi, I get overwhelmed if it’s too complex so this sounds like it has just the right amount for my liking! 🙂

    Reply

    • Kim
      Oct 30, 2015 @ 17:48:48

      Yes, I would agree. I also don’t really enjoy hard Sci Fi. This book was certainly on the light side and made for some nice light reading.

      Reply

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