Book Review: Gone by Michael Grant

Gone by Michael Grant -  Header

I’m not exactly sure how I came to end up reading Gone by Michael Grant. I mainly read books on a tablet, and having never heard of the author, or the book, it somehow ended up in my online account, waiting for me to read. I truly don’t remember purchasing it, and can only think that it was either given as a welcome gift when I signed up, or more likely, that I was drawn in by the recommendation by Stephen King on the cover image, having been inspired by the horror author’s musing On Writing.

Lord of the Flies William Golding - Michael Grant Gone

Either way, I had it to read and so I opened it up, with absolutely no idea what to expect, what it was about or even how long it was. And what I found was, while not as great as King proclaimed, an interesting story about what happens to a group of kids when you isolated them from the world, from authority and ask them to fend for themselves.

At this point it is fair, just as I did at the start of the book to instantly start painting pictures of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. It’s a sad fact of life, that as soon as you create a society in which children are given total responsibility that comparison will be made. And now having read Gone, having seen how the story changes, evolves and moves away from Golding’s, I still can’t help but feel that the idea for the book started life as a development of Golding’s principles. Lord of the Flies created a foundation onto which Michael Grant could twist, modernise and expand to his imaginative desires.

Once I’d got past thinking I was reading a book that was attempting to do nothing more than fool me into thinking it was anything more than a facsimile, once that potential elephant had been lead from the room and I was able to relax into the book and it’s story, and it truly comes to life. The writing is great and Grant not only manages to create characters that feel real, he places them into a world that is brought to life simply but so vividly you can see every rock, building and child as if they were stood in front of you.

Children Holding Hands - Michael Grant Gone

It’s Grant’s ability to use simple but fittingly descriptive language that means you become so immersed in the book that you really start to create strong friendships and hatreds with the characters. Grant makes you side with the good guys, detest the bad and feel the fear, anxiety and panic of those caught in the middle. While the characters all feel real and visual, I did, however, find the main character Sam a little weak at times, his words portraying an emotion that didn’t quite tie up to his action but this was few and far between and ultimately acceptable in the grander picture, because everything else around these minute slips is so clear and polished.

All is not great, however, because as much of a page turner Gone as is, however much there were times I truly longed to get back to reading, to get back into their world, and spend time with the characters, there are just elements to the story where I feel it goes too wild, too far fetched and too unsatisfactory in it’s stupidity. Grants imagination attempting to blend too extreme twists and ideas into the story. To move it away from dystopian adolescence but instead of working, it just made my go: “really?” .

My other problem is one of character age versus maturity. The idea is simple, if you’re over 15 years or older you’re gone. And yet there are times when the everyday actions, the unforced situations, seem to command or suggest that those left behind are older. It’s not just a case of needs must, but rather one of maturity beyond their years. And this is highlighted most by the tightening of the relationships between characters in the book that on occasions seemed to hint and suggest at events and feelings that are beyond platonic and beyond the knowledge of their age. Whether actual or not, I don’t want a hinted look or an unspoken word sexualising a group of 14 year olds. It felt more than just wrong and off putting.

Michael Grant Gone Books

I didn’t know while I was reading it that it was part of a much larger series of books. That it is just the opening, and therefore, elements that are introduced and then just accepted rather than explained may be covered in my more detail, but in the here and now, asking this book to stand on it’s own two feet, it felt weak to just leave so much hanging; especially as what is ignored is so abstract to the normality of life the characters in Gone are spending so long searching for. While I won’t spoil it, this is highlighted best by the ending, that seems more written as required to follow on to the next than fitting and conclusive for the pages before.

Throughout a very large amount of this book, the sizable “middle meat” so to speak, I would have said it was stunning, that it was arguably the best fictional book I’d read in my recent literary renaissance, but the way it’s ended, the unsatisfactory pandering to what is to follow, has left me somewhat withdrawn from the book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and yet, I’m not as disappointed I’ve finished it as I felt I would be and even worse I’m not sure whether I’ll go on to read the rest.

Posted on by 5WC in Book First Edition

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