I'm going to open with what's probably going to be the last compliment I make about this book: The opening is not bad. Here's how it starts:
They took mother away today.
I was on my energy board when they came. They didn't knock. They just came in, men in black uniforms. Enforcers. I shut off my board and stumbled, hitting my hip against the metal sidebar. They didn't say anything but held up their hands in a way that told me to stop and not come any closer. My meter was only halfway to the finish point. Mother had gotten off her sleeping mat when she heard them at the door and stood there, head down. How tangled her hair looked, gray and lifeless.
We proceed to watch the Enforcers drag this woman away to a "bus-box" (and wait until you find out what those are) and that's the last we see of her except in flashbacks. There's an Unmotivated Close-Up of sorts in this scene ("They asked which sleeping mat was hers. She pointed to mine") which, while clumsy, does nicely set up a future plot point.
Now, the prose is pretty overwrought, and it gets a lot worse ("I ran as fast and hard as I could along the ridge between the ruts in the dirt road, the muscles in my legs clenching and unclenching like fists..."), but other than that this is very solid opening for a dystopian novel. The opening passage features a hook with some action and intrigue - the kind of thing you need to get an agent if you aren't pals with a famous ideologue. It quickly establishes some aspects of the world while still keeping everything a little mysterious, giving the kind of disorienting feel that you want in a story set in a very alien place/time. It's not bad.
It's also pretty much the opening to Soylent Green.
If you opt to read Agenda 21, you'll discover quickly that it cribs quite heavily off of other dystopian properties (and one in particular). Some of it is a lot more brazen than this, but now's a good time to get used to it. Those "energy boards" are basically generator bicycles used to produce energy for the "Central Authority." So we have a young person and an aged person producing their own electricity, an old person departing for a mysterious facility...I've seen this.
|Courtesy of bandita/Flickr|
From now on, I'll only be pointing out derivative content that bears on the plot in some way. If you want to play spot-the-plagiarism, be my guest.
Anyway, that's the opening. It's going to get a lot worse.