One of my biggest pet peeves is when people try to justify unethical copying with the philosophy that everything has already been written and nothing is new. It’s codswollop and it aides lazy, unoriginal thought. In the first two books, I don’t remember thinking often that Condie borrowed ideas. The closest I can remember is that the journey portion in book 2 reminded me of Tally’s journey to find Shay in Uglies. (while preferring Uglies and feeling that the association was probably unique to me.) This time, a load of dystopian YA clichés abound.
Some of the elements in dystopian YA are so oft repeated that I wonder if they’re considered genre standbys. Which is stupid, because dystopian YA is not a genre any more than Zombies is. Elements in that category that show up in the Matched series are:
- Female main character named after a plant most people don’t recognise. (Cassia, Katniss, Rue)
- Love triangle. Often with an obvious choice.
- Oppressive government is poorly explained or not even all that bad.
- Previous goes hand in hand with: A resistance that is as bad or worse (or the same as?) the reigning government.
- Dumb made-up words for simple things that don’t exist.
- Stupid reactions/references to things that are perfectly normal to readers.
And the whole search for the plague cure just felt like something I swear I’ve already read (but can’t put my finger on).
There was a scene that I like to think of as a “two-handed bum-cover” wherein an unpleasant character pronounce new works of art as worthless because it’s all been done before. She even repeats the encounter in the last chapter. Just to make sure all the meanies who try to take her to task over the unoriginal elements,
It’s a good ending to the series, though, and it’s definitely better than the second book. But like any book that deals with a plague as a major plot point, it drags on and on and on so really, do not ever listen to the audiobook. Anything you can listen to comfortably at 2x speed is insane at normal speed. It’s also something you can literally sleep through for at least ten minutes at almost any given time.
The actual Rising coming into power was interesting, because stuff was going on for once. It really shows how ill-defined the world is, though. For all the flowery description, I don’t think I had a mental picture of anything in the world beyond some of the people and the street that Cassia lived on in the beginning. But yeah, political intrigue was great. The stuff about the cure, though, is drawn out to such an extreme length that I got bored and stopped caring. Which is really bad. People are dying and there’s a race to the cure! I’m supposed to give a crap! I don’t! And the reason is: REPETITION. Even months later, I remember the horrible, expecting to encounter readers with an IQ of 7, lecturing repetition. I’ll be damned if Condie didn’t explain the same thing about blood four times.
Really, the Stretch-Armstrong treatment on that part of the story is best illustrated by this passage.
“Remember when you and I were talking about the small red mark on the people who had the earlier virus?”
“The virologist they took out had a theory about that.”
“What was it?”
“He thought that if someone had the red mark, it meant they’d had the virus, like we thought—and he also thought that it meant that they were protected from the new mutation.”
“How could that be?” Lei asks.
“The virus changes,” I say. “Like those fish you were talking about. It was one thing, now it’s different.”
She shakes her head.
I try again. “People who had the immunizations had been exposed to one form of the virus, a dead one. Then the first round of the Plague came along. Some of us might have contracted the virus, but we didn’t get really sick because we’d already been exposed to it in its weakened form. The immunization did its job and our bodies fought off the illness. Still, we had exposure to the live virus itself, which means we might be safe from this mutation. The dead virus wasn’t close enough to the mutation to protect us, but our exposure to the original live version of the Plague might be, as long as we actually contracted it.”
“I still don’t understand,” she says.
I try again.
And he does try again. This is after the virologist already had to explain it to him twice–and he probably did it better. I read this passage with an outraged look of shock on my face. I felt like the author was talking down to me and patting my head while I was stuck in a nightmare zone of the same easy-to-understand facts repeated ad nauseum. And somehow the grammar just seemed to get continually worse. I just re-read it now and my eyes glazed over. “The virologist they took out?” That sounds like a mafia hit. “Like those fish you were talking about. It was one thing, now it’s different.” Oh no, please, be more vague. I almost understood what you were referring to.
If this book had wrapped up at least fifty pages sooner, I don’t think things like that would have galled as much. I’m just glad I finished it at last.