Novels focused on dystopian societies have been around for ages. Many have become famous for their depictions of what society could become in the future. “Atlas Shrugged,” “1984” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” are only a few among the many classics. Though the first dystopian novels were written centuries ago, their popularity for both novelists and readers has skyrocketed in the past 15 years.
Roger Davenport joins the rank of these dystopian novelists with his newly released book, “Wanderer.” “Wanderer,” which debuted on April 1, is set in a thriving, yet government-controlled city named Arcone. Society in Davenport’s book is split between those living within the luxury of the city and the Wanderers, who scavenge for food and water just so they may go on living.
This novel focuses on two teenagers from opposite sides of society who become unlikely allies.
Kean, a young Wanderer, was ejected from the city as a baby because he was born with six fingers on one hand. The Wanderers live in desert conditions with heat so intense they must sleep during the day and travel by night. Survival is the only goal of these people, but Kean has aspirations that far surpass scavenging for food and water.
Essa, on the other hand, lives in the comfort of the air-conditioned, pyramid-shaped tent that houses all of the residents of Arcone. She is an only child who is rather dissatisfied with life in the pyramid, and her curiosity leads her to sneak around to explore forbidden areas of the city whenever she has a chance. Essa cannot understand why the history of the city’s creation is held so secret that only the highest government officials have access to the information.
Though the premise of “Wanderer” is intriguing, the lack of emotion displayed by the characters keeps the story from being truly great. In 180 pages, very little was learned about either of the key characters in the novel. Both characters were rather flat in an otherwise chaotic, socially inept society.
Kean seemed somewhat inconsequential to the entire story. It is even hard to come up with character traits for him besides being loyal and at times reckless. I wanted to like him since he is the main character, but by the end of the book, I really didn’t care whether he lived or died. I was just indifferent.
The same can be said of Essa. Though she had a bit more depth with a back story that could lead the reader to feel sympathetic, she still did not incite any true emotional connection. She was very curious and somewhat bucked authority, but she was not at all relatable.
The lack of character development in “Wanderer” was quite disappointing. It is so interesting to look at what society could become with just a little tweak in the belief systems. Unfortunately for “Wanderer,” the story of this society just wasn’t enough. To make a truly great novel, there should be some characters who evoke love, compassion and even hate. If you don’t cheer when the bad guy loses, then there is a problem. Moreover, if it is not even clear who the bad guy is -- an even bigger problem.
Overall, an awesome plot idea, a great setting and an intriguing futuristic society do not make a great novel. Without strong characterization, “Wanderer” does not bring anything fresh or new to the genre and ends being quite mediocre.
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