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You sit in the dark, watching their faces as they talk through brief lives, and all the time you wonder what got them in the end. Was it a Winger striking out the sky? Trackers on their heels till they dropped and the Myrmidons came? A Ferret uncoiling in some dark hole where they'd hoped to hide?
Now you're watching me... and you're wondering... What got her?”
-Shade's Children,
Garth Nix

Plot Introduction:

"He'd already decided he wouldn't run. Better dead or even the Meat Factory than more years of running scared, running alone.”

Written by Garth Nix, Shade's Children is, essentially, a novel of post-apocalyptic angst.

Fifteen years have gone by since a Change swept the land. Anyone over the age of fourteen just up and disappeared. Poof. Gone. The children who remained were put into huge groups homes, where you were given enough food to keep you strong, enough education to keep your mind keen and enough companionship to keep you alive. But when you turn fourteen, they take all of that away from you and harvest your body parts.

This is the world that Gold-eye escaped. Thanks to help from his older brother, Gold-eye was able to avoid his fate and given the chance to run free. But as it turns out, the world outside the dorms is just as hard as that inside. Except now, one must provide for themselves and fight off the Overlord's vile creations.

Characters:

The Good

"I was eleven years old then. Eight years ago, which means I am probably the oldest human alive.

Four children, the last few who remain free from the Overlords, band together. Their only real goal is survival, but Shade is the provider of safety. And with him comes a harsh price. They must do the work he cannot. Together, using powers developed by many children after the change, they fight the Overlords. Saving those they can free, destroying those who get in their way, and, hopefully, working towards a better tomorrow.

The Bad

"Thin, spindly stick-humans that looked like half-melted plastic soldiers. Bright, bulbous eyes, too large for their almost-human eye sockets.”

When the Change happened, the Overlords surfaced. In the beginning, they hid their intentions. They came in big trucks, promising to take children back to their parents. But it quickly became apparent that they had more sinister motives.

They harvest the brains of any child over the age of fourteen in order to create their vile minions. These strange human-technology hybrids are nothing but phantoms of their former selves. Their controllers, though, seem to be quite a bit more...

The Ugly

"Perhaps I can redeem myself after all...”

After the Change, only one man survived. Robert Ingman. While his body was destroyed, his mind was saved in an advanced sort of computer system. A scientist at heart, he took on discovering what had happened to the world. But somewhere along the line, he changed. With the mind of a computer, his mental evolution occurred at a much faster rate than the world around him.

Naming himself Shade, he began welcoming any child who could escape the Meat Factory into his arms. Over time, he'd developed a safe-house in a beached submarine. He became a sort of father figure, over all of the children. Except over time he began to see himself as more than just the protector. As the saying go, power corrupts...

Personal Review:

... and he added his own wail of despair ...”

The first time I read this book, I got about halfway before I skipped to the last page. It didn't really appeal to me. Maybe that's because it was really a young adult book and I've haven't exactly had an affinity for those (with the obvious exception of the Animorphs... They were the coolest ever. EVER!). Really, it was written with a young person in mind. The language is anything but complex. Hell, the main character only speaks in broken English.

That irritates the hell out of me. Because the idea behind the book is great. But Nix fails to live up his potential with this book, because he deliberately wrote for an age group.

After a year or so, I picked up the book again. Vague memories of enjoying the plot ran through my head. This time, I read it through. Cover to cover. And I was pleasantly surprised. The story did bring itself to a conclusion rather well. I still disliked the writing style, but I passed that by and gave myself enough time to enjoy the book.

It seems that targeting young adults with pseudo-science fiction has been a popular theme this last while. And Garth Nix landed a winner. Even if I can't stand the style of the book, I can completely approve of the plot and characters. So my advice is check it out. And give it a second chance after you set it down. I think you'll find it worth the effort.

Title: Shade's Children
Author: Garth Nix
ISBN: 0-06-447196-9
Publisher: Harpercollins Publishers
Date Published:1998
Length:345 pages
Genre: Science Fiction


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