First published in February 2012, US author Julianna Baggott’s novel ‘Pure’ formed the first instalment into her post-apocalyptic dystopian trilogy set in a desecrated and ravaged future.

DLS Synopsis:
After the Detonations, the world had become a very hostile place to live.  Those that had clung to life, somehow surviving the atomic holocaust of the Detonations, were left to eke out an existence in the rubble of the ravaged new world.  That is, unless you were one of the lucky ones to live within the protective shelter of the Dome.  For those that managed to get to the colossal structure before the devastation hit the world have had a life of plenty ever since.

But this is far from the case outside of the Dome.  Close to the illuminated super-structure of the Dome, post-holocaust survivors hide within the crumbling structure of the neighbouring city.  Either side lie the Deadlands and the Meltlands, where simply walking across the land can be perilous.  For here the fusions that followed on from the Detonations have created the vicious beasts known as the ‘Dusts’.  Grotesquely mutated beings, fused with the earth itself, creating a marriage of dust and beast – ravenous and dangerous.

Those who live in the city near the Dome aren’t much better off than these warped visions of humanity.  No one has escaped the fusions brought about by the Detonations.  Every man, beast or animal wears the mark of this new life.  Strange fusions of flesh and machine.  Flesh with dirt.  Flesh with flesh – whether human or animal.  Everyone wears the mark of the Detonations.  Everyone but the Pures within the Dome.

Pressia Belze lives with her grandfather in the ruined remains of a barbershop.  She is about to turn sixteen, and that means one thing and one thing only.  The OSR will soon be after her.  With one hand fused to a doll’s head, Pressia knows that she hasn’t got a chance with the OSR.  The militia will use her as target practise as soon as they have her.  And so, when they eventually come, she’s ready.  And leaving behind her grandfather and what was once her life, Presseia Belze runs off into the dog-eat-dog streets that belong to the Wretches.

Meanwhile, inside the protective shelter of the Dome, seventeen year old Ripkard Crick Willux (better known as Partridge) is coming to a decision that will change his life forever.  After becoming convinced that his mother is still alive somewhere outside of the Dome, Partridge decides that he has to find her.  And in doing so, he has to escape from the Dome.  But, as far as he is aware, no one has ever left the Dome in the decade or so since the Detonations sealed them in there.

But Partridge has never been as determined as he is now.  He plots and plans, and finally, when the time is right, he makes his escape from the Dome.  He is on a mission to find his mother.  A quest that will lead him to Pressia Belze and on to answers for the many questions that constantly plague his mind.  

And after the two meet, together they will seek out the truth behind Partridge’s mother and the dominating power of the Dome.  Together they will find out the truth...or die trying...

DLS Review:
From the very first sentence, Baggott sets down a clinging and oppressive vision of an utterly bleak dystopian future for mankind.  With the world now ravaged by self-imposed atomic explosions, Baggott quickly immerses the reader in the dark and frightening existence of the twisted and mutated survivors living outside the Dome.  Indeed, from the outset, Baggott sets down the highly emotive and thought-provoking premise of a society that has almost everything, sitting starkly against a mass of survivors who have nothing.  A society of spoilt luxury set amongst one of desperation and suffering.

And as such, there’s a very prominent underlying tension applied to the storyline from the start.  Aggression and longing, mixed with hatred and desperation.  Baggott doesn’t shy away from exploring the many human touches of the tale, instead embracing every guttural response as well as the glimpses at even the most fleeting of joyful moments.

Using multiple character perspectives to define each chapter, the reader is allowed to view the unfolding storyline from both inside and outside of the Dome, and then following on to the four principal characters that make up our protagonist’s loose band.

With very definite similarities to Robert McCammon’s epic post-apocalyptic masterpiece ‘Swan Song’ (1987), Baggott’s own addition to the genre was always going to be treading some well-worn ground.  Indeed, there is so much of ‘Swan Song’ (1987) in the novel that they begin to feel somehow connected.  Bringing Stephen King’s ‘Under The Dome’ (2009) into the equation along with some of the strange post-apocalyptic mutation ideas from the likes of the ‘Deathlands’ series, and you’ve pretty much got the general backdrop for Baggott’s dystopian trilogy.  But it works so much better than the sum of its parts.

The characterisation is incredibly strong and constantly developing throughout the entire length of the novel.  The character of Pressia Belze is very much in the same vein as McCammon’s character of Swan.  Similar ages, similar strong and downright defiant qualities.  The two characters might as well have been twin sisters. 

Partridge and his early rival Bradwell are also two equally intriguing characters.   Neither are clear cut, and neither particularly obvious.  They appear very human and very real, with weaknesses and faults that come out to the surface on numerous occasions.  More intriguingly complex still is the character of El Capitan.  Baggott incorporates a delicate wealth of subtle unspoken depths to the challenges faced by the twined-character; with his brother Helmund permanently fused to his back, the strange piggyback marriage is like something from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ‘El Topo’ (1970).

Baggott’s writing style throughout the novel is engaging and intense, with slight poetic touches coming into play on occasion.  The atmosphere feels real and all-encompassing; instantly submerging the reader into the setting of this desecrated post-apocalyptic world.

The storyline delivers far from a direct plotline, but instead more of a purposeful-meandering that eventually leads the reader to a point where revelations spur on greater revelations.  The danger element is always present and clawing at the heels of our small band, keeping up the intensity and pace of the storyline whilst forcing the tale onwards with barely time to catch your breath.

Quite simply, ‘Pure’ is one of those tales that once you start, it’s so very difficult to put the book down.

The novel runs for a total of 434 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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