I’ve been meaning to review the Gone series pretty much since the day I finished it (and, in fact, since I started reading Gone, the first book) but I kept putting it off because I was afraid I wouldn’t do it justice. I really thoroughly enjoyed this series, and would heartily recommend.
Now, to attempt to review without too many spoilers… Here we go then.
So! This series centres on the little town of Perdido Beach, California. It’s a normal, sleepy, California town, about ten miles away from a nuclear power plant, close to the sea, ideal for surfers. Until one day every adult disappears. Not just every adult. Everyone over the age of fifteen vanishes without a trace. Just poof.
And then we take it from there – we’re immediately plunged into a Lord of the Flies-style situation where the kids of Perdido Beach are suddenly left without adult supervision, and when they investigate further, they’re trapped in a massive dome – twenty miles in diameter, with the nuclear power plant at the dead centre of the dome. Animals are mutating and gaining strange powers – surely snakes aren’t meant to be able to fly? – and kids are just the same. Some kids seem to have developed incredible powers – mutant powers that are just not physically possible, like telekinesis, healing, laser beams from the hands, super speed – we’re talking X-Men style powers. Combined with a sinister sort of presence in the darkness of a mine, things get out of hand very fast – kids form allegiances and a battle goes down in the very first book – all combined with the fact that time is running out – plenty of kids are heading towards their fifteenth birthdays – fast. And nobody knows what’s on the other side of the poof.
That’s just the first book. Throughout the next five books, which take place over the course of about a year, we see the various issues which will face the kids – how do they organise their society, make sure they don’t starve, keep things civilised? Who’s in charge? Who does what job? Who looks after the babies, who helps the sick? And how do they deal with everything the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone) can throw at them – from lies to hunger to plague to the crushing fear of darkness? What the hell is hiding in the mine? How does anyone keep order when there are kids running around with incredible powers? And what will they do when – or if? – the dome disappears?
This series was really, really good. I have very few issues with it. The characters were diverse and interesting, and the perspectives skipped around from Perdido Beach to the islands in the sea, to the desert, to Coates Academy, the school up in the mountains, taking with it a cast of characters spanning both sides of good and evil, brave and cowardly, male and female, young and old (well, old for the FAYZ) and kept things interesting and refreshing throughout.
When summarising this book, I distilled it down to the single tagline – Lord of the Flies crossed with X-Men – but that doesn’t really do it justice. The Gone series doesn’t feel like a derivative series. It’s refreshing and interesting, and brings up some really interesting questions. There’s some really great character development over the course of the six books (particularly Diana, Caine and Orc) and it never felt dull or boring. In fact, I would have read all six books in a row except I had to prioritise Garth Nix over anything (he is my favourite author…) and I’m not allowed take Before I Die out of my house, so I had to read it while I was home. All six books were compelling, and very difficult to put down.
My complaints are: that it took a long time to gain a female character who wasn’t instantly described as cute, and that Sam Temple, the primary character, was probably the dullest of the lot – he didn’t really have any of the strong development that others did. I mean, he had some development, but he just wasn’t as compelling as some of the others. Luckily, the Gone series really focused on an ensemble cast, so Sam didn’t drag it down too far. As well as that, Little Pete sometimes felt like a plot device who was just flung in there to make things more difficult. He improved towards the end, but certainly at the beginning, he was little more than the idiot savant, which was frustrating.
My only other disappointment was that Light was, I thought, the weakest of the lot. I would have preferred more exposition at the end, when the … ending happened (this is very hard to do without spoilers…)
I did think Light was the weakest. It felt rushed, which was sad, because I thoroughly enjoyed all 3,000 pages which preceded it, and would have liked to have something which just expanded a little more. But that’s not to say that Light was bad. In fact, if it hadn’t been following such a strong example, I probably would have been very happy with it.
My overall opinion of this series is a very good one – I’d highly recommend it (I’ve been trying to convince Sinéad to read it, so I can discuss it with her, but it’s not working) and I will definitely be looking to pick up some more Michael Grant books. If this is the calibre of his writing, I’d happily read more of it.
Gone, Hunger, Lies, Plague, Fear