My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
I received an ARC from the publisher via netgalley.com
Ok, so first of all: that cover! Seriously? I totally get that publishers tend to try and jump on the bandwagon with popular and successful franchises and series. But this kind of “marketing” always makes me suspicious. Can’t your book be successful on its own? Also, people are simply going to be disappointed if your product is not like the product it’s imitating.
The worst thing is that Paradigm would not have needed the camouflage. It is very different from the popular YA Dystopian series that it takes its cover design from. Yes, this is a YA Dystopia as well, but that’s where the similarities end.
In Paradigm a few corporations take over the duties of government after environmental catastrophes make it impossible to live above ground. This develops into your typical Orwellian state after a few decades. Interestingly, we get to see the founding of the new government and its established form decades later. I really liked that the narration was split like that. Also the story does not simply introduce the reader to a finished dystopian state but explains its cause in a rather plausible way and shows that the new structure of society was actually a good and necessary idea that went awry quite quickly. The question asked here is not “who’s the real evil one?” but rather “is this kind of development inherent to the human race?”. Not a new thought, I know. But still interesting. This is your typical dystopia but the narrative style and the structure make it into something new. Paradigm does not manage to do without the typical motifs of “the useless humanities” versus the superior sciences. Art, music, and literature are not needed for the perfect society; they are mere distractions. There is population control and behavior control reminiscent of Huxley’s Brave New World.
However, Lowe does spare us the typical YA love triangle (Thank you for this, Ms…). Of course there are love relationships and the like in this novel, but they mostly make sense and add to the plot. Sometimes they are used to show the restrictions of the system; other times they are a means of pointing out how people change in extreme situations. However, some of the relationships seemed a bit forced to me. I think the reason for this is that the book introduces a lot of characters and not every single one of them is given real depth. This also goes for the protagonists. They seem kind of like cardboard cutouts of “the conflicted hero” or “the strong-cause-she-has-to-be girl”. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Alice a lot; and both, she and Carter develop and change in the course of the story but that happens rather abruptly and is not too convincing.
The one thing Lowe definitely has going for her is that she can write. She writes beautiful and heart wrenching scenes that make up for the sometimes dull and foreseeable plot. I just wish she would have had a better editor. There are repetitions and weird phrases everywhere in the book. One paragraph had the words “shunted”, “shuttled”, and “siphoned” in it and it made for very weird reading. Another example is a sentence that had the word “tightly” in it twice. I can only hope that these things can only be found in the ARC and will have changed once the finished book is published.
Unfortunately, I can only give two stars because the whole thing seemed too unfinished to me. The world …. Builds is quite interesting, so I hope that the next part of this series will build on this potential. And yes, I am planning to read the next one of this series once it comes out; I haven’t been completely put off by the first book. And I would still recommend it if you have already read all the popular choices of the genre and don’t know what to read next.