After going on a long bout of nostalgia last night involving a book that Grant co-wrote 15 years ago, I now just finished reading a book he wrote recently; Lies. And this book seals it: I fucking love this series. I love it with a fiery passion. Michael Grant is one of the best writers ever, and I eat up everything he writes. That being said, like a lot of others, I do think this was the weakest entry so far, but it doesn't matter; I still like it.
The biggest reason it's the weakest was the plotting. The plot here was a lot less complex than the ones in [book:Gone|18405] and [book:Hunger|2767052]; I wouldn't say it was predictable, but it wasn't unpredictable either, and it felt a lot lighter and more tame than what I'm used to from the series. That being said, was it still well-paced and well thought-out? Yes. If it came from anybody else, would I be satisfied? Of course. I just came to expect better than that from the author of the masterfully plotted Hunger. The plot here is sub-par without being bad.
The characterization, on the other hand, wasn't sub-par at all. In fact, I'm finding myself genuinely concerned about the fate of these characters, either because they're so well-developed or because I've spent three books with them. All of them, without exception, are marvelously well-developed and realistic. As with the last book, I have a few favorites. Like Howard, which I found a bit odd to like, since he was mostly unnoteworthy in the previous books. Dekka and Brianna are still awesome, of course. I sort of have a love-hate relationship with Astrid, but by the end of the novel, I was mostly sympathetic. And we can't forget Edilio.
What Grant does best with his characters, and I've talked about this a little before, is the different reactions that we see to the FAYZ, which is exactly the kind of thing I love to see. Take Mary for example: she's been taking care of the kids for over half a year, and she already had mental problems before then. People don't understand her anorexia and her bulimia, so they're being assholes about it, particularly Astrid. (This is part of the 'hate' side of my relationship with her.) Her actions throughout the book were increasingly intense and interesting; I totally understood her suicide when it all ended. Grant's portrayal of the frustration she went through was really accurate, really realistic, and it made up some of the darker aspects of the book. That's the best example I can think of off hand of the kind of character interactions I'm talking about; Mary's character arc throughout the book was really well done.
There is one thing that bothered me about the characters, and that was Grant's handling of religion. Now, Grant is an atheist; I knew this going into the series. When I saw Astrid in the first book portrayed as a fairly religious Catholic, I was happy that Grant chose to portray religions other than his own, and that he would make them just as well-developed as the characters with ambiguous religions. But in this book, Astrid started to become more of a caricature, what with saying that she was doing 'the Lord's will' by preventing kids from killing themselves based on Orsay's prophecies and things like that. I have to say, I was really disappointed in Grant for that. Anyway, the only other religious character in the book was Brittney, and she was batshit insane throughout the entire thing. I wanted Grant to give us a good, well-rounded portrait of religion, just like he does with everything else, but I found that sadly lacking here.
The other thing I found lacking was the prose. In Gone, the prose was a little rough around the edges, but that went away in Hunger. Well, now it's back; every once in a while, there was a missing quotation mark or sentence break, or there was a turn of phrase that didn't sound right. It was far from the worst writing I've ever seen, and the problems weren't too consistent, but they were annoying nonetheless.
So, even though this wasn't the best book Grant has ever written, I still found it to be a strong display of characterization and plotting. This series is definitely worth reading, and I'll definitely be reading Plague.