Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

Standish Treadwell can't read, can't write, Standish Treadwell isn't bright. At least, that's what his teachers and classmates think. The truth, of course, is much different.

Standish's dyslexic brain does operate on a slightly different frequency than everyone else, that much is a given, but he's anything but slow. His hyper-vigilance gives him an extraordinarily sharp & vivid insight into the world around him.

And what a world it is.

Don't be fooled, Maggot Moon is no syrupy, coming of age story. Standish doesn't find redemption in a group of misfit friends, he doesn't grab the eye of the girl that's way out of his league, he doesn't score the winning touchdown to the cheers of his newly-converted classmates. No, there's none of that predictable claptrap in this novel. No happy endings in Zone 7.

Standish lives with his grandfather in the aforementioned zone in a 1950's dystopian UK where mass surveillance, torture and Nazi-esque eugenics are as normal a practice as going to  Jiffy Lube. Anyone who expresses the faintest sign of dissent, such as Standish' parents, disappear in the night, never to be seen again.

"Such a cruel nation is the monstrous Motherland. I'm amazed no one has risen up to throttle the bitch," Standish says in one of several memorable lines from this amazing novel.

Standish, in an attempt to mentally check out from the brutish nature of his reality, plays make-believe with his best friend Hector. Together they dream of traveling to the planet Juniper, imagine themselves driving Cadillac's, eating ice cream and watching television shows from the U.S.

Then, Hector and his family disappear and Standish decides he can't take it anymore.

The Motherland, obsessed with being the first country to land on the moon, is preparing to film the landing live on the one television channel everyone has. As an act of revenge,Standish and his grandfather decide to make a television event of their own, because if you're going to go down, you might as well go down swinging.

Maggot Moon is a faced-paced yet heavy book. Its themes on surveillance and government control are far too relevant in 2015. It'll make you angry, it will make you paranoid, it'll make you want to kick down the office doors of the Motherland Punisher-style. Then, if there's anything left in you, it will make you cheer Standish's uncrushable human spirit.  Highly recommended.

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