Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Gem People (Logan Mickel)

The Gem People
Logan Mickel
Echo Deep Books
Fiction, YA Sci-Fi
*** (Okay)

DESCRIPTION: A great civilization, on the edge of self-inflicted devastation, races against time to leave one last hope - one last legacy - to the world they destroyed. Binding their own chosen daughters in living rock, they charge these ambassadors to the future with a great task... if only they can remember it.
Like everyone else on the mountain of Flintchip, Cole knows no life other than mining brack for the distant Train Lords. Their rocky ground barely can support tubers, let alone the necessities of civilization that the massive, monstrous trains bring across the Broken Plains. Then, deep in the tunnels, his pick strikes something strange: a relic from the unimaginable past, possibly from the legendary age of the Engineers themselves. It is a vast chamber containing several strange statues: girls crafted entirely of gemstones. Only these aren't just statues - they're alive.
The Gem People bring great wonder to dull Flintchip, but also great temptation... and great danger. None of them remember just why they were created, or what they were meant to do. As the historian and Town Council try to untangle the mystery of their presence (and whether they ought to be exploited for the good of the town), Cole's world is turned upside-down as friends become foes, neighbors become strangers, and echoes of the past threaten to destroy the present.

REVIEW: It's difficult to rate this book. On the one hand, Mickel creates an interesting world, a little different from the usual post-apocalyptic world, and the imagery of the gem-encrusted people makes for decent mind's-eye candy. On the other, most of the characters are frustratingly obtuse; Flintchip largely exists to be a greedy, short-sighted mob, just as the Train Lords exist to be overbearing, arrogant jerks exploiting the workers. The gem people themselves start out interesting, but quickly become useless, simple-minded plot devices, despite how hard the author and main character try to defend them. They spend far too long being naive and utterly useless, too impossibly alien (and conveniently bereft of key memories) to even save their own lives when threatened. These people can move through stone and lift boulders like they weigh nothing... yet they find themselves easily trapped and coerced. In the beginning, the Engineers explain that only one of the future gem people will hold all of their memories: a very flawed system, when even self-preservation is erased by the lithification process, and when the brightest of them is too dim to rescue their own amnesiatic memory-keeper when she needs it. (I want to believe that it's just a coincidence that they're all girls, and that they so often have to be saved by the male main character doing their thinking for them.) The end result is that they're far more things than they are characters. Cole struggles with his changing world and his changing role in it, as one by one he loses most every pillar of his life to date: his faith in his neighbors, his understanding of the world, his best friend, even his family, down to the truth about the very nature of the mountain that he's mined since he was old enough to swing a pick. After several clashes with his own people, the tale builds up to a tense climax... one that goes out of its way to spare lives, and which leaves the door wide open for sequels after an ending straight out of a comic book, or an anime.
Overall, while I found some elements of this story intriguing, I just didn't find it a particularly satisfying read.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Remnants: The Mayflower Project (K. A. Applegate) - My Review
Pendragon: The Merchant of Death (D. J. MacHale) - My Review
Dragon Wing (Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman) - My Review

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