Thursday, April 4, 2013

Review: The Culling by Steven dos Santos

The Culling (The Torch Keeper #1)
by Steven Dos Santos
Published by Flux
Date of Publication:   March 8th 2013 by
Source: gifted
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis: Recruitment Day is here...if you fail, a loved one will die...
For Lucian “Lucky” Spark, Recruitment Day means the Establishment, a totalitarian government, will force him to become one of five Recruits competing to join the ruthless Imposer task force. Each Recruit participates in increasingly difficult and violent military training for a chance to advance to the next level. Those who fail must choose an “Incentive”—a family member—to be brutally killed. If Lucky fails, he’ll have to choose death for his only living relative: Cole, his four-year-old brother.
Lucky will do everything he can to keep his brother alive, even if it means sacrificing the lives of other Recruits’ loved ones. What Lucky isn’t prepared for is his undeniable attraction to the handsome, rebellious Digory Tycho. While Lucky and Digory train together, their relationship grows. But daring to care for another Recruit in a world where love is used as the ultimate weapon is extremely dangerous. As Lucky soon learns, the consequences can be deadly...
My thoughts

Expectations : I was in a dystopia and post-apocalyptic mood during a 2013 titles goodreads browse last year. And the mention of a LGTBQ relation and to be precise the G part of the acronym in the synopsis intrigued me . I have read some m/m fiction in 2012 but mostly in adult titles. That type of romantic relation is not that common in YA fiction. So I wondered if it would be as stereotypical as some YA titles that also highlight it.

Cover : The scene that the cover illustrates could be anywhere in the novel. But I think most likely during one of the trials. The dude on the cover is Lucian ‘’Lucky” Spark, the protagonist, the cover helped me paint a picture of him in my mind. The locator on wrist has a very important role during the trials. I love green, which I have mentioned at moments before and love the sickly greens used on the cover.

Book : There’s a city shrouded with smog and smoke. It’s called the parish. Workers slave away in the industrial borough. That powers the flickering gaslights. Most people don’t reach the age of forty and if they reach it, starvation or the Reaper’s cough struggle with each other to hand over that life to Mr. Death. The latter is caused by the smoke and stress in the factories and it has been rumored to be engineered by the Establishment. The Establishment, a big brother government in this novel, has the Recruitment day annually. Some ‘lucky ‘few get to be chosen, recruited to have a chance belonging to the elite military ops. Called The imposers or imps for short. 5 candidates are chosen in the recruitment. They face 2 months of excessive training before entering the trials. The recruit who places last after each trial will have to choose which incentive (the military term for loved one)will be murdered and if both incentives are expired, that recruit will be eliminated from continuing and immediately shipped off to work camps. This will go so forth till one recruit remains triumphant. This 16 year old fellow nicknamed Lucky is betrayed and accused of treason against the state. The only way to save his 4 year old brother is to win. Will he succeed?

When I read I try not to see similar storylines in books. Yes its sounds like THG at points. For example the recruitment day sounds as it was an adapted version of The Reaping. Some parts could be annoying to some readers if they don’t start with an open mind. This is not a rip off of The Hunger Games if you ask me but just a YA title with a totalitarian government with parts that seem similar to THG. This genre is crowed and of course you’ll find some similar plots or storylines along the way and it’s okay as long as they’re no copy cats. I have to admit the world building in THG was put together greatly and that’s where The Culling loses some points. The government and the world building were vague at parts. There are farms mentioned, are they outside the parish and I want to know the name of that region called. There are group of people that are miners and develop reaper’s cough when they’re older but it is mentioned that at age 16, the youth enters the normal military or the special ops. Lucians’ parents were miners and died of Reaper’s Cough. How does the Establishment get a hold of people to work in the mines or work camps? Let’s just say the new employees at the mines are former military personal, you have to replenish your livestock to do the manual labor because they die when they are a certain age from reaper’s cough. Can’t the former cadets fight back? Yes I have some problems with the word building but nothing other than that.

The negatives are out of the way, so let’s focus on the positives. The characters made The Culling what it is. A torture for the characters and the reader to experience scenes where their loved ones, are murdered. Whilst sending a message that love for the state is more important than loving people close to you. Getting attached to people is very dangerous because the Establishment will use it against you at any cost. Lucian and his fellow recruits, who he bonded and became close with, got to know. The manipulation and murders reminded me of high quality slasher movies. You are a very evil man Mr. Dos Santos for making me care about lucky’s competition.

You have to like the protagonist otherwise reading about him or her could be a chore. Lucian was very naïve at first but trough out the novel he became more level headed and I’m happy that he did not lose his kind heart. The remaining recruits are Digory, Gideon, Ophelia and Cyprus. Out of the remaining recruits, Cyprus tugged at my heart strings the most. She’s a female by the way and 17 or 18 with raven long hair. She came across as a bitch at times but if you read her back story and the situations she was thrust in you only feel sorry for her. She was hard like a rock but soft in side in the good meaning of the word. Another thing that I liked was the bond between the brothers. Lucky would do anything for his brother.

Hallelujah. Can I get an AMEN? The romantic angle was not forced, rushed or in your face. It was important to the story line but did not overpower it. And there was not a love triangle in sight but please don’t let there be one, it could be if you nudge it some. Digory and Lucian’s romance was slow building and I look forward seeing it grow more and more till it’s a crescendo in future books. There romance was handled Iike any other romantic love and not like HEY THIS IS A GAY LOVE.I read about 4 gay men in this book and none were stereotypical stick figure gay guys. Thank you Dos Santos. Digory was the kind next door type of guy. He has tawny wavy locks with blue eyes and 1 or 2 years older. Maybe in the next book some steamy kissing scenes. Poke, poke. (There aren’t any so far)

I whizzed through The Culling. There were some problems along the way and I hope that a love triangle will not be developed. I really want to know what happened to Digory. The ending was bitter sweet. I hope that there will be more details on the military, imposers, The Establishment and that thing that scares them. And more scenes with Lucky and Cole, his 4 year old brother would be lovely. Do want to read about loving someone and doing anything to save them. Even if it could mean sacrificing others loved ones. The bond between brothers and a slow building romance between two kind wonderful young men. Give The Culling a try.


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